Bangkok: Delighted coach Yon Kwang-mu struggled for words after DPR Korea secured a return to the final of the AFC U-16 Championship after edging out Australia on penalties in Wednesday’s semi-final following a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
Park Yong-gwan’s strike just after half-time had handed 2010 champions DPR Korea the lead at Rajamangala Stadium only for substitute Daniel Arzani to equalise for Australia five minutes remaining.
But DPR Korea will face two-time winners Korea Republic in Saturday’s final after goalkeeper Ri Chol-song saved from Jake Brimmer and Jackon Bandiera in the shootout allowing Jang Song-il to earn Yon’s side a return to the final for a fourth time in five tournament appearances since 2004.
“I can’t express my happiness that we are going to final. I can’t find word to express my happiness,” said DPR Korea coach Yon (pictured).
“Our strategy was to have defence and then sudden attack, and in the beginning of the second half we succeeded in our plan. But at the end of the match we conceded one goal. But in general, our plan was OK.”
The win represented a second consecutive penalty shootout triumph for DPR Korea after Yon’s side edged out Iran following another goalless draw in their quarter-final.
“Australia, Iran and Korea Republic are all the top level teams,” added Yon. “I will work another plan for our strategy in our next match.”
Korea Republic earlier earned their place in the final after recording a 7-1 win over Syria.
“The number of goals scored is not very important,” said Yon. “Maybe after Syria conceded twice maybe they tried to attack and couldn’t defend attacks.”
Australia, meanwhile, missed out on a first AFC U-16 Championship final appearance despite not losing any of their five games.
“We knew they were going to play counterattacking football, so as long as we had our structure, we knew we would control the game and I think we controlled the game. But we couldn’t break down their buses that were parked in front of the 18-yard box and that is something we have to improve on. But overall, I am really happy with how the played,” said Australia coach Tony Vidmar.
“We have 13 months to the World Cup and when we get back to Australia we can closely analyse each game and also closely look at other countries and areas they do well and we don’t and look to improve in those parts.
“Finishing and delivery of balls into the box from the wide area is something we need to improve on as that can prove the big difference.
“But overall, the way they played tonight was fantastic and the whole country should be proud of the way they played.”