Time to get serious as Hong Kong young guns go out to impress in Interport against Guangdong
Youngsters will be hoping to catch the selectors’ eye and win places in the senior squad, who play North Korea in March’s crucial Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang
Hong Kong’s young guns will be put in the firing line when they take on Guangdong in the Interport Cup on Thursday, but it’s a chance for them to shine against superior opposition.
Hong Kong have lost the cup the last four years and the young side must deliver in the opening leg of the annual competition at Hong Kong Stadium to have any chance of regaining the trophy before the action swings to Guangzhou for the second leg on Sunday.
Coach Kenneth Kwok Ka-lok is expecting a lot from his charges, who have always fallen short against their mainland visitors and he is hoping they will change their fragile mentality to a winning one in the traditional new year competition, which is in its 40th year.
“Our Hong Kong team have achieved some good results against stronger teams in recent years by drawing against them but we have not gone a step further by defeating [most of] them,” said the coach. “This will be a good chance for our young players to learn against stronger opponents. Guangdong are no doubt the better side.
“We have better preparations for the tournament this year and our young players are showing good fighting spirit. We hope the players can rise to the occasion this time.”
The Hong Kong squad are made up of mostly young players but Kwok promised his young charges the chance to get some good match experience ahead of the crucial Asian Cup qualifying tie against North Korea in March. If the youngsters impress, they will be rewarded with a place in the senior squad, said Kwok.
Hong Kong can reach the 2019 finals in UAE with victory over the Koreans in Pyongyang.
Promising strikers Yuen Chun-sing and Lai Lok-yin will be out to catch the selectors’ eyes along with forward Chuck Yiu-kwok. Defenders Tsui Wang-kit and Wong Tsz-ho will be out to impress, too.
Guangdong feature mainly players from two Chinese Super League clubs – Guangzhou R&F and champions Evergrande – with six players from each side while another top-tier side Hubei Fortune also have two. Other players are from Chinese League One but diminutive striker Lu Lin of R&F will be missing.
Coach Chen Yuliang said his side were running against time preparing for the new Chinese league, which ended last season in November.
“We have got together for only three weeks and we need more time to regain match fitness. We are still having our season’s break,” he said. “It’s always a tough battle against Hong Kong as they are playing in the middle of their season but our target remains the same and that’s to win the Hong Kong leg so will have less pressure in our home match.”