AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying

They can be heroes: Hong Kong coach raises stakes for Asia Cup showdown in North Korea

Goalkeeper from the historic 1985 triumph over China says a victory in the Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang would give fans something else to talk about

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 12:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 10:37pm

One of the heroes of Hong Kong’s historic 1985 triumph over China has called on the new generation to create another legacy by beating North Korea in their Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang next week.

Now caretaker coach of the Hong Kong team, Liu Chun-fai was part of the 1985 squad who beat China 2-1 in Beijing on May 19 to knock the mainlanders out of the World Cup qualifiers for the 1986 tournament.

That squad is now part of local sporting folklore and he wants the Hong Kong team to also make history.

“We want people to talk about this team after next week’s game,” said Liu, one of the best domestic goalkeepers of his era.

“People have been talking about the match against China for over three decades. We defeated a strong opponent in an away match and brought home the honour. The term ‘519’ (May 19) has become the household name of Hong Kong soccer.

“This is the same situation we face against North Korea and I want to see the same thing happen. Fans will then be talking ‘327’ (March 27) rather than only ‘519’.

“But the players must first believe themselves that they can win and I have full confidence in them.”

Liu said Kitchee striker Jorge Tarres had always been a player he admired and the naturalised striker was duly called up after recovering from a back injury. Tarres headed home the first goal when Hong Kong defeated visitors Malaysia 2-0 in the group last October.

“He has been training for a while and also featured in the AFC Champions League, which means he is fit for the game again,” said Liu, who also called up Tarres’ teammate Tong Kin-man for the crucial match. Both players were not in the preliminary 31-member list for the game.

“Tong has been playing regularly at club level and has displayed consistent form, convincing me [to select him],” said the coach.

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However, defender Festus Baise, who plays for China Super League side Guizhou, has been forced to withdraw after suffering an injury in the league over the weekend.

Hong Kong take on North Korea at Kim II-sung Stadium next Tuesday in the last group match. They are three points behind the Koreans and need a win to overtake their opponent on away goal difference to join group leaders Lebanon for the 2019 finals in the United Arab Emirates. The two sides drew 1-1 in Hong Kong in the first leg in June last year.