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Group A: DPR Korea advance in style

Chonburi: DPR Korea underlined their dominance in Group A at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship Thailand 2019 on Saturday as they beat Thailand 3-1 at the Chonburi Stadium to head into the semi-finals on the back of a third successive win.

Already assured of top spot and a place in the competition’s last four, the East Asians were rarely troubled by the host nation as a superb first-half display laid the foundations for the 2007 champions to claim yet another deserved victory.

Son Sung-gwon’s charges – who are set to face one of either Japan, Korea Republic or China PR in the next round on Wednesday – now stand one win away from guaranteeing themselves both a place in the Continental final and a place at the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Nigeria.

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Showing five changes to their side which started against Vietnam last time out, DPR Korea were quickly out of the blocks and they took the lead after only five minutes when Kim Kyong-yong converted Ryu Sol-song’s delightful cross from the left.

Moments later Kim Hyang’s free-kick forced Thailand goalkeeper Wararat Nanongtum into a fine sprawling save, before Thai defender Thadarat Thaisongtham did superbly well to block Ri Chong-gyong’s goalbound effort on 19 minutes.

With Thailand struggling to cross the halfway line, DPR Korea added a second through Ri Chong-gyong’s powerful header from Kim Hyang’s pinpoint 27th minute corner.

As the first period drew to a close, Wararat was on hand to rescue Thailand once again, this time diving away to her right to divert Pak Hyon-jong’s fierce drive around the post and deny the rampant Koreans a third going into the break.

DPR Korea were, however, to stretch their advantage just two minutes into the second half courtesy of Ri Su-gyong’s sweetly struck drive from fully 20 yards which flew past Wararat.

After livewire forward Ri Chong-gyong had planted a header against the post, Thailand pulled one back through captain Nutwadee Pram-nak who curled home from the edge of the DPR Korea penalty area following fine approach play by Pornnapa Ounsa.

The goal clearly rejuvenated the hosts, but there was ultimately to be no shock comeback as DPR Korea, despite failing to scale the heights they reached in the first 45 minutes, comfortably saw the game out to claim all three points.

Arun Tulwattanangkul: Thailand head coach

“We are not happy with the result, but the players gave their all and it is good that they gave 100 percent. All of our group stage games have been difficult, but this has been a real experience for my players. They now know what they have to achieve in the future if they want to progress at a tournament like this.”

Son Sung-gwon: DPR Korea head coach

“I think our players played very well, especially as they carried out the tactics we had asked them to use. I am therefore quite satisfied with the result. I think Thailand also played well, and they were definitely as passionate as our team. The semi-finals are, of course, important for us, so we will prepare the players so that they will play to the very best of their ability.”

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