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Group B: Matchday Two Preview

Friday, January 12, 2018

Jiangyin: DPR Korea head coach Ju Song-il is adopting a cautious approach as his side prepare to face debutants Palestine on Saturday in the second round of Group B matches at the AFC U23 Championship China 2018.

Ri Hun’s second minute goal against Thailand proved enough to secure all three points and a great start to DPR Korea’s campaign, but Ju remains pragmatic about their opponents, saying: “All the teams who have qualified for the Finals are strong teams.

“There aren’t any weak teams here, and in football matches the result is so unpredictable. All we have to do is to play our best to win the next match.”

However, while Ju admits that he is unfamiliar with the West Asians, he nevertheless fully understands the importance of the match.

“We don’t know much about Palestine and haven’t played against them before, but the next match is still going to be important for us to qualify to the knockout stage.

“But we have studied them from the Qualifiers (in July) and we are prepared.”

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Meanwhile, Palestine head coach Ayman Sandouqa is more than aware of the threat posed by the young Chollima, adding that he was not at all surprised by their win against Thailand.

“DPR Korea are one of the good teams in the tournament,” he said.

“They are well organised and disciplined, they play as a group rather than individually.

“In the past, DPR Korea have performed positively in Asian tournaments, so I think the result was normal even though both Thailand and DPR Korea had chances to score.”

Sandouqa, who is also the Palestine U-16 and U-19 coach, remains hopeful of sealing a place in the quarter-finals.

“We take every game as it comes, which is step by step, therefore our goal for this upcoming match is the three points so we can keep our hopes to qualify to the next round.

“We are trying to work on our mistakes from the previous match and study them (DPR Korea) to allow ourselves a better chance in the match on Saturday.”

The day’s second match will feature Thailand and defending champions Japan, who also enjoyed an opening day win courtesy of Ko Itakura’s 20th minute goal.

Despite their bright start, Japan’s Hajime Moriyasu is taking nothing for granted ahead of the game, especially after December’s 2-1 defeat to the young War Elephants at the M-150 Cup in Thailand last December.

“We have played against them before, and we know that they have great technique and mobility,” said the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach. “They are an organised and good team.

“We lost to them previously, so we need to win our next meeting. The most important thing for us now is to be fresh mentally and develop as a team.”

With only two matches remaining in the group stage, Thailand head coach Zoran Jankovic acknowledges Thailand have a mountain to climb after their Matchday One defeat, but the recent success against Japan has afforded the Serbian-born Bulgarian a glimmer of hope.

“Japan are the best in Asia, it will be more harder to play against them compared to DPR Korea.

“But we beat them in the M-150 Cup in Buriram, so who knows, we can do it again.”

Photos: AFC

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