Pak’s fitness a concern for Yun ahead of crunch UAE clash

Pak’s fitness a concern for Yun ahead of crunch UAE clash

Muscat: DPR Korea coach Yun Jong-su is sweating on the fitness of striker Pak Kwang-ryong ahead of Wednesday’s crunch Group B meeting with fellow quarter-final hopefuls the United Arab Emirates at the AFC U-22 Championship.

Pak scored and had a hand in both goals for strike partner Jo Kwang as DPR Korea began the campaign with a 3-1 win over Yemen at the weekend, although the FC Basel striker did have to play for just under an hour with his head swathed in bandages following a first half clash of heads.

And with Pak still affected by the injury during Monday’s 1-0 defeat by Syria which saw DPR Korea slip to third in the Group B table a point off the pace with just one game remaining, Yun is weighing up his options with defeat at Seeb Sports Complex certain to end his side’s campaign at the first hurdle.

“Pak has not totally recovered from his slight injury and he was not fully refreshed for the game against Syria,” said Yun.

“We may make some changes. I will consider the situation and decide after Tuesday’s training session and also by the player’s reaction before I decide what to do in the next match.”

There are also questions marks over the inclusion of goalkeeper An Tae-song after his error handed Syria striker Nasouh Nkd Hle a simple tap-in for the only goal of the game just before the hour mark on Monday.

“I have not decided whether we will stick with the goalkeeper,” added DPR Korea coach Yun.

Having moved a point clear at the top of Group B alongside Syria following their 1-0 win over Yemen on Monday, the unbeaten UAE know they can secure a place in the last eight with a draw against DPR Korea.

But with the UAE looking to finish at the top of the table, coach Ali Ebrahim is planning changes to ensure his side claim all three points.

“We are ready for the next match. We have knowledge of DPR Korea and have one rest day to work on certain aspects especially our physical side,” said the UAE coach.

“We are going to make some changes in certain positions, but in general, we will look to win as we are not going to wait for the other result as that is very risky.”

Fellow Group B table-toppers Syria can also advance to the last eight with a draw against already-eliminated Yemen at Royal Oman Police Stadium, although coach Ahmad Al Shaar will be without influential duo Hamid Mido and Mouaiad Al Ajjan due to suspension.

Central midfielder Mido scored as Syria began their campaign with a 1-1 draw with the UAE, while left-back Al Ajjan provided the cross which created Nkd Hle’s winner against DPR Korea, but yellow cards picked up in both matches mean the pair will miss out on Wednesday.

“The next match is very important,” said Syria coach Al Shaar. “Our aim is to qualify. We will try our best against Yemen and we’ll try to score more in the next match.”

Yemen are unable to advance past the group stage following back-to-back defeats, but coach Abraham Mebratu is eyeing continued improvements against Syria having seen his side produce a hard-fought display against the UAE.

“I hope that from game-to-game we will get better. Our main objective is to prepare the senior national team players for the future so this will help them get more international experience,” said Yemen’s Ethiopian coach.

“We will take the last match seriously and play to show a better performance than in the second game.”