North and South Korea go head-to-head, Aussies face Japan in Asian Cup U20 women’s semis

March 13 – The AFC Women’s U20 Asian Cup reaches semi-final stage in Uzbekistan tonight with two regional clashes that mix old power with returning power in the women’s youth game.

The pick of the ties in terms of rivalry is the battle between North and South Korea. The Korean Republic (South Korea) have long held an elite position in both men’s and women’s competitions.

But in the women’s events, until recently, have often been upstaged by DPR Korea (North Korea). When the global pandemic hit the North Koreans retreated within their national boundaries and have only recently returned to international competition.

The seven times finalists in the Asian U19 Asian Cup have re-entered the international arena with force, edging Japan in their final match to top their group and secure a semi-final against South Korea who finished second in their group to Australia.

The South Koreans scored 20 goals in the group stage and pose a formidable attacking threat with Jeon Yu-gyeong top scoring with four goals so far. The North Koreans will be bolstered by the return of centre-back Han Hong ryon who DPR Korea head coach Ri Song ho said will be crucial to their performance.

“Tomorrow we are going to face a very able and organised team,” said Ri. “We have to be stronger in our defence line to get the best result.

“Han is one of the key players in our team. She was suspended against Japan and the defence didn’t feel balanced. She will be back, making our defence stronger and I’m sure her teammates will also be happy to have her back alongside them.”

Korea Republic head coach Park Youn-jeong said that the team that commits fewer mistakes will be the winner.

“We have analysed their game and DPR Korea’s strength is in their defence, they are also physically and mentally strong. However, that also applies to all four semi-final teams. The important thing is to reduce our mistakes,” said Park.

Aussies confident of rolling on to final

Australia are the only team in the semi-finals with a perfect record of three wins.

“We are looking forward to facing Japan and to play and represent Australia in the semi-final of the AFC Women’s U20 Asian Cup is a huge honour and we’re relishing the opportunity,” said head coach Leah Blayney.

“Japan are tactically flexible and that’s why they were the silver medallists at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in 2022.

“We have been consistent throughout the competition and we are building the squad for the future. We would also need to evolve and be flexible in our tactical abilities and I’m proud of what we have achieved so far.”

Japan were chastened by their loss to North Korea and know they have a bog task against the form team from the group stages.

“Our goal is to win the match and all the players are prepared,” said Japan coach Kano Michihisa.

“Our 1-0 defeat against DPR Korea (in the group stage) has given us the hunger and desire to win. The players know what is expected of them and we want nothing more than to reach the final.

“We know they have a physical advantage and most of their players play abroad but that’s not going to be a problem for us.”

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