North Korea

Australia struggle against Hong Kong in East Asian Cup

Underdogs can take heart from home team's display when they meet Socceroos

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 2:16am


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As Hong Kong proved on Monday night, a country's world ranking means nothing on the field of play.

Australia, ranked 33rd in the world, struggled against the 172-ranked hosts at Mong Kok Stadium, winning 1-0 in the East Asian Cup qualifiers, the deciding goal coming in the 85th minute.

That should give North Korea, ranked 81st, plenty of confidence when they take on the Socceroos tonight at Hong Kong Stadium. The Koreans have impressed with their two victories so far, which has seen them find the net 11 times, albeit against minnows Chinese Taipei and Guam.

But they will be looking to step up a gear tonight, as it could decide which team will reach the finals in South Korea next year. With North Korea already having scored 11 times, goal difference takes on added importance and even a draw could see them qualify for the finals, where they would meet South Korea, China and Japan.

North Korea coach Yun Jong-su, though, remains cautious. "It's going to be a tough match," Yun said yesterday after a training session at Siu Sai Wan. "The Australians are strong and aggressive. Their performance against Hong Kong was affected by the pitch conditions and the weather.

"[Tonight's match] will be only their second of the tournament and they will likely show improvement. Fortunately, we have studied the video of their recent matches and hopefully we can exploit their weak points."

North Korea boast five players who were part of their 2010 World Cup finals squad. One of the five, midfielder Pak Nam-chol, is always a danger on the left flank and has scored twice in the tournament already. Striker Ri Myong-jun has also netted four times to lead the scoring charts.

North Korea are also likely to have the crowd's support after the Socceroos hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons - the perceived arrogance of coach Holger Osieck has rubbed the local media up the wrong way. In fact, they were booed throughout their match against Hong Kong. Osieck said of the perceived arrogance: "I'm not aware of anything like that because I never speak negatively about any opponents."

Tonight's programme will also feature a match between Chinese Taipei and Guam, who will both be determined to avoid finishing bottom of the table.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, still have two matches to play, against Chinese Taipei on Friday and North Korea on Sunday.