Bangkok: Coach Yon Kwang-mu hailed as “united” spirit as the decisive factor as DPR Korea claimed a second AFC U-16 Championship title after recording a 2-1 comeback victory over Korea Republic in Saturday’s final.
DPR Korea had fallen behind to Choi Jae-young’s 34th minute header following a frantic start to the final at Rajamangala Stadium.
But after Han Kwang-song netted his fourth goal in six games five minutes after half-time, striker partner Choe Song-hyok struck with 23 minutes remaining as DPR Korea added to their 2010 triumph.
“We have been preparing for this championship for a long time with the qualifiers last year, but we have now succeeded,” said former DPR Korea international striker Yon after his first final appearance as a head coach.
“We have united as one as we have tried to show our team spirit in all our matches.”
DPR Korea finished runners-up in Group C behind Uzbekistan having lost to the defending champions either side of wins over Kuwait and Nepal.
But after edging out Iran following a penalty shootout in their quarter-final following a goalless draw to secure qualification for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, DPR Korea also needed penalties to beat Australia in the semi-final following 1-1 draw.
“For our young players, this championship is their debut in international matches and our young players played well in the group stage and learned a lot in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and also the final.
“Their skill and technique and their determination has developed, and in the future through this experience at this championship, we will consolidate what they have learned.
“We will play at the World Cup and represent Asia. We will prepare well and show Asia’s development at the World Cup.”
Bangkok: Han Kwang-song and Choe Song-hyok scored in the second half as DPR Korea claimed a record-equalling second AFC U-16 Championship title after completing a 2-1 comeback victory over Korea Republic in Saturday’s final at Rajamangala Stadium.
Choi Jae-young’s 34th minute header had given Korea Republic the lead as Choi Jin-cheul’s side sought to claim a record third AFC U-16 Championship title having advanced to the final with a 100% record.
But after Han equalised for 2010 champions DPR Korea five minutes after half-time, Choe struck with 23 minutes remaining as Yon Kwang-mu’s side joined Korea Republic, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia and Oman as two-time winners of the tournament.
Roared on by the biggest crowd of the tournament, both sides started the contest at a frantic pace, although Korea Republic’s Ahn Joon-soo was the busier of the two goalkeepers during the opening exchanges as the custodian made a regulation save from Kim Ye-bom’s speculative long range effort after eight minutes before watching as Han blazed into the side netting.
Ahn was beaten seven minutes later but Jong Chang-bom had strayed narrowly offside before racing onto Kim Wi-song’s through ball, while opposite number Ri Chol-song was soon called into action to make a smart save low to his right from Lee Seung-woo’s drive from the edge of the penalty area.
And Ri again blocked from Lee 15 minutes before half-time as the diminutive Barcelona striker rode a challenge before evading another DPR Korea defender and firing goalwards from just outside the area.
With the end-to-end nature of the contest continuing, Korea Republic goalkeeper Ahn then had to deal with a rising strike from Han which the custodian unconvincingly punched to safety.
But despite DPR Korea looking the most likely to break the deadlock, Korea Republic opened the scoring 11 minutes before half-time as Choi Jae-young’s glancing header from Lee Sang-heon’s right-wing corner looped over Ri.
DPR Korea, though, were level five minutes after the restart as Park Yong-gwan’s long angled ball into the area was missed by the Korea Republic defence and Han expertly took one touch to bring the ball down before coolly beating Ahn from the edge of the six yard area.
And Han almost turned provider seven minutes later as Yon Jun-hyok could only direct the strikers pull back just wide of the upright with Ahn scrambling across his goal.
But DPR Korea did claim the lead seven minutes after the hour mark courtesy of another Korea Republic defensive mistake as a through ball was allowed to find Choe, and the striker rifled his shot across Ahn and into the top corner from inside the area.
With time running out Korea Republic quickly pressed for an equaliser and Ri had to be on his toes to block at close range from You Juan with 11 minutes remaining.
But despite Korea Republic continuing to press in the closing stages, they were unable to find a way past a well-organised and disciplined DPR Korea defence and suffered a first defeat of the campaign.
“The players are OK ahead of the final and they have a lot of desire to perform well. Han is one of our main strikers, and as he is back, the other players are encouraged,” said former DPR Korea international striker Yon (pictured) ahead of his first final appearance as a head coach.
“As the competition goes on, our physical condition is not as good and of course at the same time, Iran and Australia were good teams and not easy to beat. In the last match against Australia Han did not play so that gave us some stress, but even in the last two matches, we had chances to score.
“I am not thinking about penalties and I don’t think they will happen in the final because our strikers are good and Han is back. He has had a full rest so he has benefited from the yellow cards.”
“I did not go to the stadiums to see Korea Republic’s matches, but I have watched videos and found they are as strong as Australia and Iran. But now Han has returned, I plan for us to have more chances and more goals than in the last two matches,” added Yon.
“Their player Lee Seung-woo is a good player, but I think compared to our strikers, they are at the same level, and even he may be better in my opinion so we are not too worried about him. But he is the best player in his team, and we need to be careful.”
“I think the reason Syria lost the last match was because when they conceded the second goal, they lost their mental strength,” said Yon.
“And also in my opinion, they were satisfied with qualifying for the World Cup, and after conceding two goals, they we discouraged.”
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.”