AFC President’s Cup: Final preview

Colombo: FC HTTU coach Rowshen Meredov is determined to emerge victorious in Friday’s AFC President Cup final over Rimyongsu Club and end the series of defeats suffered by the Turkmen against DPR Korean sides in AFC championship deciders.

In both the 2010 and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup finals, the Turkmenistan national team came within minutes of victory against DPR Korea at the tournament’s climax, but a penalty shootout and a goal three minutes from time twice denied Meredov’s nation a place in the AFC Asian Cup.

And despite having claimed top spot in Group A to advance to the 2014 AFC President’s Cup final with consecutive victories over Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club and hosts Sri Lanka Air Force SC, the hoodoo the Koreans hold over the Turkmen is one that still weighs heavy on the FC HTTU coach’s mind.

“Yes, we have some football history between our two nations, and I hope that this third time we face each other we can break this pattern of defeats, because our aim is to win this cup not just play in the final,” said coach Meredov (pictured), who had seen his side share a 1-1 draw with Rimyongsu in the final stage qualifiers in the Philippines in May.

“The match we played each other before was very tough and we both had chances in that game, so I’m expecting another difficult contest with Rimyongsu.

“We are also struggling with several injuries, we have a least five first-choice players with injuries. My medical staff is working hard and two of those players may be fit in time, but we’re still not sure. We’ll have to see on match day.

“Despite this, though, all the players in my squad are important and I know they will satisfy me with their performances so we’ll do our best.”

Rimyongsu coach Jo Tong-sop, meanwhile, will find himself in familiar surrounds on Friday, as it was from the same dugout at Colombo’s Sugathadasa Stadium that he helmed DPR Korea to their historic 2010 AFC Challenge Cup victory over Turkmenistan.

Adding to the sense of déjà vu is the presence in the Rimyongsu ranks of Ju Kwang-min, Pak Song-chol, Ri Chol-myong and Ri Kwang-hyok who were members of DPR Korea’s squad in the 2010 final, and former national team coach Jo is relishing the return to the scene of their triumph.
“Our progress in this tournament has been quite similar to the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup as we also drew 1-1 with Turkmenistan in the group stages in that tournament before facing them in the final which we won,” said coach Jo, who saw his Rimyongsu side comfortably top Group B to reach the last-ever AFC President’s Cup final after they followed up Monday’s 5-0 drubbing of Mongolian champions FC Erchim with a 4-0 victory against Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Limited of Bangladesh on Wednesday.

“We were given a lot more confidence ahead of the final against FC HTTU as a result of our two comfortable victories over Erchim and Sheikh Russel, this really helped to boost the morale and belief of the players.

“We know that the Turkmenistan team is certainly very strong in physical terms, and that’s something we’ll have to be aware of, but we’re feeling very optimistic about Friday’s final.”