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October 15, 2019

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Bento cautious as DPRK awaits

South Korea coach Paulo Bento has told his players to be wary of a counter-attacking Democratic People’s Republic of Korea side ahead of today’s historic meeting in Pyongyang in 2022 World Cup qualifying.

The two national football teams have faced off before in World Cup qualifying, with their last meeting coming in 2009, but today’s game will be the first time the countries will have met in the competition in Pyongyang.

It will also mark the first time the men’s national teams have played in the DPRK capital since a friendly in October 1990.

“DPRK are a physical and aggressive team, and they can be especially dangerous on counter-attacks,” Yonhap news agency quoted Bento as saying.

“But they also have holes that we can exploit, and I think we’re prepared to do just that.”

Both teams have won their opening two games in the second round of qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, with South Korea notching up an 8-0 win over Sri Lanka last Thursday having already defeated Turkmenistan.

The DPRK, meanwhile, beat Lebanon in Pyongyang in its opening game of the campaign before securing a narrow victory over the Sri Lankans to stand level on six points with its neighbor.

This is the second World Cup qualifying campaign in the last decade that the two nations have been drawn to face one another.

South Korea and the DPRK met in the third and fourth rounds of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, with the two games due to be played in the DPRK relocated to Shanghai.

Across their four meetings in 2008 and 2009, three were drawn — including both games played at Hongkou Stadium — with South Korea winning the second meeting in Seoul 1-0 as both nations qualified for the Finals in South Africa.

That remains the only time both countries have progressed to the finals of the same World Cup.

Meanwhile, China’s national team wrapped up its pre-game press conference in under two minutes in Bacolod City yesterday evening ahead of its World Cup qualifier against the Philippines.

The press conference had originally been canceled due to heavy traffic in Bacolod, according to a statement issued by the Chinese Football Association through its official Weibo account.

“The press conference was initially scheduled at 6:15pm, but the team arrived in the stadium at around 6:30pm with around half-an-hour delay,” read the statement. “In order to give our players more time for training and to take a good rest after the training session, the CFA decide to finish the press conference earlier after negotiations with the organizers.”

Head coach Marcello Lippi, along with captain Hao Junmin and Lippi’s translator, stepped into the press conference room at the Panaad Stadium for a few photographs and then left.

Team Dragon arrived in Bacolod on Sunday evening, less than 48 hours before its clash today.

By contrast, the host team arrived in Bacolod a few days ago, and have been taking twice-daily training sessions ahead of the match against the highest-ranked team in qualifying Group A.

Philippines captain Stephan Schrock stressed that anything can happen in football, including a surprise win.

“You can be sure that we will be well prepared,” Schrock said during the Philippines’ press conference.

“We’re expecting a good and organized unit from China, and we will ask questions of them tomorrow night.”

Currently, the hosts have three points with one win and one defeat, while China tops the group after two one-sided wins over the Maldives and Guam.


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