Saudi Arabia in must-win situation against North Korea

Saudi Arabia in must-win situation against North Korea
Updated 13 January 2015

Saudi Arabia in must-win situation against North Korea

Saudi Arabia in must-win situation against North Korea

MELBOURNE: North Korea are approaching Wednesday’s Asian Cup clash with Saudi Arabia confident that a gradual ideological thaw will help them overcome the odds and reach the quarterfinals.
After their defeat by Uzbekistan in their opening game at the weekend, coach Jo Tong-Sop backed his Swiss-based pair Pak Kwang-Ryong and Cha Jong-Hyok to spearhead a revival in Melbourne, describing them as crucial to his side’s hopes.
“Yes I rely a lot on them and expect them to step up in the next games,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “They were perhaps a little tired in the first game, but they should be better in the next two matches. If we stick to our plan and play to our strengths we’re capable of winning both games.”

North Korea’s scoreless run at the Asian Cup extended to 381 minutes after its 2015 tournament-opening 1-0 loss to Uzbekistan. The Saudis aren’t faring a lot better, though, following a 1-0 opening loss to China that extended a run of Asian Cup defeats. Naif Hazazi missed the only shot on target against China — a penalty in the 61st minute. Saudi Arabia lost all of its group matches in the 2011 edition and is determined to end that streak. Saudi Arabia has the advantage in head-to-heads, with three wins and just one loss in their previous eight meetings.
The Saudi squad had a major setback ahead of its opening match when striker Nassir Al-Shamrani, the Asian player of the year, was ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
Another loss for either team could mean they’re out of contention for the knockout stage, depending on what happens in the other group match between Uzbekistan and China.
“It’s a difficult game, and an important game for us,” Saudi defender Osama Hawsawi said. “We have to win this game to keep our chances of qualifying from the group. We have to fight.”
North Korea will rely heavily on its four foreign-based players, including Pak Kwang Ryong.
“I know that our first match wasn’t very good but, importantly, we have two matches ahead, and if we carry out our original tactics and strategies as planned, then I am quite sure we can win the remaining two matches no matter who the opponents are,” Pak said. “What we are doing now is preparing ourselves mentally and concentrating only on winning the next match and not looking back at the unhappy memories.”
The 22-year-old Pak said he’d been sharing his experience gained in Europe with his national teammates.
“I see the differences of football in Europe and Asia, and what I learn in my club could be a help to our (national) team,” he said.
North Korea coach Jo Tong Sop, who took over in December when Yun Jong Su received a one-year suspension from all AFC competitions as punishment for an altercation with match officials during the 2014 Asian Games, said the squad had taken some encouragement from the recent attention of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
“He was giving us invaluable instructions on many things like training and taking care of players,” Jo was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press. “He also gives us very great love. We are very much grateful for that.”