Players hitting peak declares delighted DPR Korea coach

Yangon: A hat-trick from Jo Kwang-myong and strikes from Kim Yu-song and So Jong-hyok saw three-time champions DPR Korea advance to the final of the AFC U-19 Championship in emphatic style with a 5-0 victory over Uzbekistan in Monday’s semi-final at Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium.

Jo got his side off to a dream start with a strike on four minutes to give DPR Korea an early lead before the same player doubled the advantage on the 38th minute to put the East Asians two goals to the good at half-time.
Although Uzbekistan looked for an instant reply following halftime, in a blistering three-goal, nine minute second-half spell the game was effectively over. Jo completed his treble on 65 minutes before Kim and So netted in swift succession to take the lead to five goals and seal the fate of the 2012 semi-finalists, who had reached the final four with an unbeaten record.
And DPR Korea, who will now advance to Thursday’s final, got off to the perfect start when Jo got on the score-sheet within the opening four minutes.
The striker took advantage of some hesitant defending to cut in from the left and crash a shot against the near post, the ball then ricocheted off the woodwork to hit the prostrate form of Uzbekistan custodian Dilshod Khamraev and rebounded backwards across the goal-line.
Eldor Shomurodov almost got the White Wolves back on level terms just eight minutes later, though, as his cross-cum-shot from the right flank almost caught Cha Jong-Hun off-guard at his near post, with his belated back-tracking save needing the assistance of the left-hand post to avert the danger.
The Uzbekistan number nine continued to look the most likely to restore parity for the Central Asians, and Shomurodov broke free on the left of the penalty area just before the half-hour mark, but his low drive was deflected over the crossbar by Cha’s out-stretched leg in another sprawling save by the Korean custodian.
But DPR Korea always looked a thread on the counter and with seven minutes before the half-time interval the East Asians had their second as Jo chested down Kang Nam-gwon’s header from his central position on the edge of the penalty area before sending a well-struck volley into the bottom left-hand corner.
Following the restart, Ravshan Khaydarov threw on forward Dostonbek Khamdamov to add threat to his blunted attack, but it was DPR Korea who scored a crucial third.
And it came from a familiar source as on 65 minutes, as Jo was quickest to react to a chested down pass on the edge of the penalty area and the forward hammered a vicious half-volley past Khamraev to give him his fifth goal of the tournament and complete his hat-trick.
Shomurodov twice went close to reducing the deficit with efforts from close-range but Cha was equal to his efforts with smart saves.
But Jon Kum-dong’s twisting run on with 18 minutes remaining brought a fourth goal for An Ye-gun’s side as the full-back forced his way deep into the penalty area before cutting back for So who could not miss from six-yards out.
And two minutes later DPR Korea had their fifth as Kim Chol-min’s inch-perfect low cross from the right-flank rolled invitingly into the path of the onrushing second-half substitute So who swept the ball home.
Uzbekistan sought a consolation goal but Cha was in no mood for charity, blocking Khamdamov’s strike from close-range to ensure a clean-sheet for the Koreans as they marched confidently to their third final in the last five tournaments in ominous form.

Players hitting peak declares delighted DPR Korea coach

Yangon: Coach An Ye-gun warned his potential AFC U-19 Championship final opponents that the DPR Korea players have now hit their mental and physical peak after their comprehensive 5-0 victory over Uzbekistan in Monday’s semi-final at Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium.

A hat-trick from Jo Kwang-myong and second-half goals from Kim Yu-song and So Jong-hyok underlined a hugely impressive performance from the three-time champions as Uzbekistan struggled to cope with the clinical precision of the Korean attack.

And with Thursday’s final to be the East Asians third in the last five editions of the tournament, An is confident that his players are now at their optimum playing capacity.

“In the group stage we weren’t physically recovered from our travel nor used to the environment here in Myanmar, but in today’s match we felt ready and physically and mentally strong,” said An (pictured).

“Uzbekistan, by contrast, weren’t as strong as I was anticipating and the physical condition of their player also wasn’t as good as I was expecting, that’s why we could shut down their play.

“This is also why we could focus on playing a more attacking style and when we play like we did today then you can see the result with five goals.”

Jo’s three goals also take him into the top three on the top goal scorer chart and An had words of praise for the forward.

“I started Jo on the bench for the first game but he showed me his excellent skills and the ease with which he adjusted to the environment, so I started him after that and he has put in some excellent performances since then,” added An.

Opposite number Ravshan Khaydarov blamed his players’ complacency for the heavy defeat coming on the heels of their quarter-final victory over Thailand which had secured them a place in next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.

“The defeat today was to do with the psychology of the youngsters in our team,” said Uzbekistan coach Khaydarov.

“After qualifying for the World Cup they were too relaxed, they thought the mission was already accomplished and maybe they thought they could easily pass the semi-final stage.

“DPR Korea had a very good shape, a good team and although we certainly played our worst performance of the tournament today that doesn’t mean the Koreans didn’t deserve the win – they were too good for us.”

The Uzbekistan coach also predicted that the East Asians, who last won the tournament in 2010, would now go on to win the title.

“If DPR Korea continue to play like this then they are stronger than their potential opponents in the final. But, of course, it’s hard to predict a winner in a 90 minute game,” he added.