Coach Kim Pan-gon plays down Hong Kong's chances of retaining East Asian Games title
Hong Kong were convincing 3-0 winners over Macau in their last preparatory match for the forthcoming East Asian Games, but coach Kim Pan-gon remains cautious of their chances of defending their title in Tianjin.
Despite being down to 10 men for most of the second half, the under-23 squad saw off their neighbours 3-0 through Chan Pak-hang's first-half header and goals from Wong Wai and Lee Ka-yiu after the break to lift the annual Interport Cup at Mong Kok Stadium yesterday.
Second-half substitute Cheung Kwok-ming was sent off almost immediately after coming on when he was shown two yellow cards in quick succession for arguing with the referee.
Kim said their preparations for the Games had gone well, but admitted their opponents there - China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea in a single round-robin competition - would be a different class.
"We are the defending champions but it's unrealistic to target the same degree of success this time," said Kim.
"China, Japan and North Korea are sending their under-20 Olympic squads, but they are all very strong and will take the tournament seriously as part of their preparations for the 2016 Olympics. South Korea will be represented by a K-League 2 selection and may be the weakest.
"We would be happy if we return with a bronze, but of course we won't rule out a better result as anything can happen in a major games, just like what we did four years ago.
"We will certainly spend most of our time defending," added Kim, "and we are well prepared for this through our training sessions. If the boys can hang in there well, we may be able to pull off some surprises on the counter-attack. We'll see."
The Games start on Sunday, with HK's first match, against China, next Tuesday. South China goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai will remain with the senior squad as they will host United Arab Emirates in a crucial Asian Cup qualifier this month.
"Yapp is very reliable but we have to respect the decision of the management," said captain Leung Kwun-chung. "If every player can deliver, we still have a chance.'