DPR Korea clinch second edition of Hero Intercontinental Cup

DPR Korea got the better of Tajikistan for the second time in four days, thus clinching the 2019 Hero Intercontinental Cup at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad on Friday. There wasn’t much to choose from between the two units for much of the match, with just a single deflected second half strike, scored by Korea substitute Pak Hyon Il, deciding the outcome.

  • The two units cancelled each other out in a goalless first half
  • DPR Korea substitute Pak Hyon Il found the back of the net on the 71st minute
  • Tajikistan’s Tokhir Maladustov’s header hit the crossbar five minutes from the end

Both outfits went in with strong line ups, picking the best of whatever their squad could offer. Tajikistan boss, Usman Toshev named the same XI for the fourth consecutive time, with the outstanding Rustam Yatimov in goal and captain Akhtam Nazarov marshalling the defence. Amirbek Juraboev and Ilhomjon Barotov played in the two-man midfield, hoping to play in through balls to Sheriddin Boboev who led the attack.

Captain and striker Jong Il Gwan operated at the front of the Korean unit, supported ably by Choe Ju Song and Han Thae Hyok. Defender Kim Chol Bom played as a centre-back this time, following previous appearances at right and left back positions in the tournament.

Korea roared out of the box as soon as the match began, with Sim Hyon Jin testing his luck within the first five minutes. Il Gwan had been their standout player in the tournament, and could have grabbed the opener but for a sensational save by Yatimov at the 14th minute mark.

The Tajiks, like in their previous three matches, did not seem to get into any rhythm for much of the first half, and almost paid the price for it on the 20th minute. Ju Song and Thae Hyok combined well on the righthand side of Korea’s attack, releasing Ri Hyong Ji. The No.16’s shot was parried away dangerously into the path of Il Gwan by Yatimov, but the Korean captain wasn’t able to direct it goal wards.

Toshev’s men realized the dangerous of sitting back, and hence upped the ante after the half hour mark. The Koreans though, were well drilled and didn’t offer much space to their opponents, leading to a goalless first period.

Tajikistan had looked visibly sharper towards the end of that half, and given their defensive record in the second half of this tournament, were always likely to commit more men forward. Their first chance of the second 45 fell in the hands of forward Komron Tursunov, whose shot needed good saving by An Tae Song.

However, despite their renewed enthusiasm, it was the Koreans who took the lead on the 71st minute. Substitute Kim Yong Il setup captain Il Gwan inside the Tajikistan box, who in turn passed it to forward Pak Hyon Il. The No.20 had arrived on the field just seconds ago, but it didn't stop him from swinging his boot at the ball, ultimately winning a kind deflection that saw his shot beat Yatimov in goal.

Jong Su’s side could have doubled their lead five minutes later when Il Gwan somehow beat the Tajikistan goalkeeper, only to see a retreating Davlatmir Tabrezi clear the lines.

It all seemed to be going the Koreans way as they slowed down the pace of the match according to their liking. Tajikistan, however, had one last glorious opportunity to level the match on the 85th minute, as Nazarov’s set piece was met by Tokhir Maladustov inside Korea’s box, beating Tae Song but not the crossbar.

Coach Speak

Yun Jong-Su, head coach of DPR Korea: “I am very happy to win this tournament. It was a very important opportunity for the teams, especially for the players before the World Cup qualifiers in September, to have experience and to take knowledge. I think we have proved that the players have been prepared well for this tournament. So, in the future, we have to learn the lesson from this tournament and be prepared for the upcoming qualifiers.”

Usmon Toshev, head coach of Tajikistan: “We think that probably our players could not have that stamina that we wanted them to have. They were not that fresh as they were in the beginning. But it was a good lesson for us and we will try to take benefits from it. We had a pretty young team here.”

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