AFC WOMEN'S ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS MD1: GROUP B PREVIEW
Pyongyang: With a trophy cabinet few in the continent can match, Group B hosts DPR Korea enter their opening AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 qualifier against India on Monday as favourites, but head coach Kim Kwang-min has cautioned his charges to approach the South Asians with the same focus and discipline that has seen his side emerge as a dominant force on the world stage.
“It is very important for us to have a good start when we play India. We must admit that we have little information about them so it is crucial to prepare well and play at our best. We have set our sights on qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 in France and we need a good result against India to have the assurance that we can succeed in this qualifying campaign," said Kim.
Meanwhile, India’s head coach Sajid Yousuf Dar is conscientious of the threat posed by DPR Korea and is hoping his side’s team spirit will transform their stellar regional form into greater success on the continental stage in Pyongyang.
“It will be an uphill battle to face the hosts in the first match. They are one of the best teams in Asia and they are very good going forward and equally sound at the back," declared the former All India Football Federation (AIFF) youth coach, who guided India’s women’s side to gold at the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women's Championship and the South Asian Games last year.
“It will be a challenge for our players, but we are working hard and improving on the technical aspects of our game to overcome the challenge. On video, DPR Korea have a solid defence and a fluent attack. We aim to strengthen our ability to play as a team and focus less on individual skill to give them a good fight,” added the 42-year-old Kashmiri native.
In the other Group B match, Hong Kong will take on Uzbekistan with both teams looking to make a strong start in a formidable group which also includes heavyweights Korea Republic. Neither side has appeared in the finals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup since the introduction of the qualifiers phase in 2006, but Hong Kong coach Chan Shuk Chi believes her side can gain an early advantage after carefully studying her opponents.
“Uzbekistan are physically a very strong side. They are especially aggressive in pressing when we have the ball so we will have to be compact with our approach, particularly in defence and look to break on the counter attack,” explained coach Chan who recalled vividly their previous encounter against Uzbekistan in the qualifiers for the 2014 Rio Olympics.
“They deploy a very direct style by playing long balls and we will try to close them down quickly to prevent any long passes behind our back line.”
Equally eager to establish a quick foothold in the group, Uzbekistan coach Babakulov Sherali is adamant his side is well positioned to collect all three points against his East Asians opponents. “Hong Kong are a team we know very well. We have played many times over the years from the age-group levels to the senior team. We have won almost all our previous encounters with them. Tomorrow’s match is no different, we are very confident we can do well against them,” said the 33-year-old.
Matchday One April 3, 2017, Monday
Group B DPR Korea v India Kick-off: 1500hrs Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang
Hong Kong v Uzbekistan Kick-off: 1800hrs Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang