2018 AFC U-19 Championship: North Korea in driver's seat for a quarter-final berth after win over five-time champions Iraq

Pak Kwang-Chon in the red jersey scored the solitary goal against Iraq (Image Courtesy: AFC)
Pak Kwang-Chon in the red jersey scored the solitary goal against Iraq (Image Courtesy: AFC)

North Korea kept their AFC U-19 Championship campaign on track after a hard-fought win over Iraq at the Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong, Indonesia on Monday.

Group B: North Korea defeat Iraq 1-0

(PRK: Pak Kwang-Chon 55’)

North Korea switched from a 5-4-1 to an attacking 5-3-2 formation with Kang Kuk-Chol II probing forward in support of their lone striker Kim Hwi-Hwang. Managing five shots on target and four off the mark, they proved more reliable with 41% of their crosses finding their intended targets.

North Korea was the first to strike the goal with Yun Min’s free kick. But the ball sailed into the safe hands of the Iraqi goalie Haval Bahaalddin.

In the 15th minute, an inviting cross from Kim Ji-Song was missed by Kang Kuk-Chol as both teams squandered opportunities to strike early.

Kim Ji-Song’s cross from the right took a deflection of an Iraqi defender and fell precariously when Haval Bahaalddin sprinted to collect the ball and avert any danger.

Iraq stuck to a 4-2-3-1 formation till the end which allowed them more control of the game with 61% of ball possession. With 462 completed passes between their players, they ended the game with five shots on target and seven off the mark. They also had a preference to strike the long balls with five shots coming in from outside the penalty area but failed to materialize as they missed the target.

Iraq responded through Abbas Jasim strike which was followed by Ahmed Sartip’s long-range effort. Korean custodian Kim Ju-Song had no trouble in collecting the ball to deny the Iraqis. Wakaa Ramadhan’s prodded attempt from close-range failed to trouble Kim Ju-Song at his near post.

North Korea concluded the opening half with a couple of shots from Kye Tam that got blocked by a robust Iraqi defense.

Wakaa Ramadhan missed a glorious opportunity to put Iraq ahead when he pounced in front of his marker, but his strike lacked the power to trouble Kim Ju-Song.

Iraq disappointed after their loss to North Korea (Image Courtesy: AFC)
Iraq disappointed after their loss to North Korea (Image Courtesy: AFC)

North Korea finally went ahead in the 55th minute when Pak Kwang-Chon made the most of a free ball following a set piece situation to shoot beneath the Iraqi custodian from a tight angle. Kim Kuk-Jin's strike had a glorious opportunity from 15 yards out when a crucial interception by Iraqi defender found it sailing away for a corner.

An unmarked Pak had the best chance to put Korea ahead, but he headed over the crossbar from close range.

Ali Mohsin’s free-kick from 25 yards narrowly went over the crossbar which proved to be the last telling effort from Iraq before Lebanon referee Hussein Abo Yehia blew the whistle to end the match.

Iraqi coach Qahtan Chathir Drain Al-Rubaye would need to charge his wards up to win their final group game against defending Champions Japan to secure a chance of a qualification place. Chol Ri would be proud with his side’s effort as their victory over Iraq have put them in the driver’s seat as a draw against Thailand would see them through to the quarter-finals.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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