Hong Kong coach urges team to dig deep for victory against North Korea
Team need to win today to have chance of reaching 2013 East Asian Cup finals
Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon has challenged his players to produce another quality performance as they take on North Korea on the final day of the 2013 East Asian Cup qualifiers.
Having collected two wins coupled with one close defeat by Australia in the week-long tournament, the hosts still have a slim chance of advancing to next year's final. They need to beat North Korea at Hong Kong Stadium today with the Socceroos failing to beat Taiwan in the following match.
The Koreans are tied with Australia on top of the five-team table with seven points each and the same goal difference, while Hong Kong are third with six points. Taiwan and Guam, who have already left Hong Kong after their match on Friday, have one point each.
"North Korea are the strongest team here, I would say," said Kim. "It was a pity they could only get a 1-1 draw against Australia in midweek as they were the better side of the match in all departments - playing style, form, speed, creativity and mental strength.
"But Hong Kong also showed a lot of promise in the match against Australia. I have never seen them play like that in an international. If the players can raise their game to another gear, we are not without a chance against the Koreans."
Against North Korea, Kim will stick to the same players that saw them lose to Australia - at 33 the highest-ranking team here - by a late goal from former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Brett Emerton. Hong Kong currently boast a record low ranking of 172, while the Koreans are 81st.
"I need players who are able to display a strong mental strength like the way they did against Australia," he said. "We have to pressure the opponents hard from the midfield and not allow them to have any space to launch attack."
North Korea midfielder An Yong-hak, who scored the equaliser against Australia, said their target was to reach the finals. "We came here to win the tournament and qualify for the finals," said the 2010 World Cup finals player, who plays for J.League side Kashiwa Reysol. "We don't know how many goals we need to score against Hong Kong to do that but hopefully we can have a better goal difference than Australia and even one is enough."
Australia coach Holger Osieck said they would be very focused against Taiwan. "We will take them very seriously and I want a very decent performance. The result will come," said the German.