Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon promises fans a moment in history in EAFF Championship
The hosts take on North Korea at Mong Kok Stadium with a spot in next year’s finals on the line
Coach Kim Pan-gon promised a moment of history for the fans who come to support Hong Kong when they take on North Korea at Mong Kok Stadium on Saturday.
The result will decide which team qualifies for the EAFF Championship finals in Japan next year after their respective victories over Guam and Taiwan in the four-team tournament early this week.
And after 13 encounters without a win and 10 losses to the Koreans since 1975, it certainly sets the stage for Hong Kong to turn the tables.
“If you come to watch the match, you will be able to see an entertaining game and the opportunity of witnessing a possible historic moment in Hong Kong soccer,” said Kim.
“We have never beaten North Korea before, but the team, the players are all eager to do it and this will not happen without the fans’ support.
“Hopefully we can have a full house to cheer for the home team for a great result.”
Kim’s confidence is not without foundation, with North Korea undergoing a transition after failing to qualify for the final stage of Asian qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
There are a host of new faces turning up in Hong Kong and also a new coach in Norway’s Jorn Andersen, who took charge of the team in May.
Furthermore, the Koreans are only on top of the standings due to a better goal difference and needed two late goals to settle the match in both of their wins.
Hong Kong, however, have shown far more convincing form against Guam and Taiwan and had it not been for a late goal by Taiwan’s Chen Chao An on 88 minutes, Hong Kong would be on top of the table and needing only a draw against North Korea to qualify for the 2017 final.
“The Korean team here is not as strong as before and I am sure we stand a good chance of beating them, especially on home soil,” said striker Chan Siu-ki, who played in the goalless draw when the two sides met in the same tournament in Taiwan in 2009.
“They lack variety in their attack with a lot of high balls used against Guam through a physical game. “But we have also introduced a number of naturalised players who have strong physique to deal with the opponents.
“Of course, we are in a more difficult position as we must win in order to qualify but this should be the best chance for us to beat the Koreans.”
With a hectic schedule of three matches in seven days, the home team has been hit by injury problems, with winger Xu Deshuai almost certainly out due to a ligament injury sustained against Taiwan.
Kim is also closely monitoring centreback Andrew Russell, who hurt his left knee in the opening game against Guam and did not play against Taiwan.
“Xu made a huge contribution in the last game as his two accurate crosses provided Alex Akande the scoring chances for the last two goals,” said Kim.
“But we won’t take the risk of fielding him again at the expense of his club game the following week.
“Russell has been making good progress but we’ll have to check his final condition before deciding if the towering defender is in the starting line-up.”
If Russell is not available, Helio Goncalves will continue his partnership with his former Citizen teammate Festus Baise in central defence, which will be under pressure from Korean striker Pak Kwang Ryong, who plays for Lausanne in the Swiss Super League.
Hong Kong know they need to sort out their defence as they take on Taiwan in East Asian Cup qualifying
Pak only arrived in Hong Kong this week but scored from a free kick against Guam.
“He [Pak] did not perform his best in his first match in Hong Kong as he only arrived the day before,” said Kim.
“But we still pay great respect to the striker as he plays in a much higher league and should be a big threat once he has settled.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong women’s team suffered a humiliating 14-0 defeat to South Korea also in the EAFF Championships second round qualifier on Friday.
South Korea had earlier beaten Guam 13-0 in their tournament opener, while Hong Kong lost 5-0 to Taiwan.
Hong Kong face Guan next week looking to avoid finishing at the bottom of the table, which would mean having to start in the first round of qualifiers for the next tournament.