INCHEON, South Korea (dpa) – North Korea and Japan decide the gold medal in women’s football at the Asian Games on Wednesday in what is an eagerly anticipated repeat of the 2010 final.
Japan won that match 1-0 over the North Koreans to claim their first gold medal in the event which has been included in the Games since 1990. The Japanese have never failed to finish in the top three.
But North Korea also have a strong pedigree having beaten Japan on penalties in the 2006 final, and topped the round robin format of 2002. They also claimed silver and bronze in 1998 and 1990 respectively.
“The final match is the most important in the Incheon Asian Games. Also, it will be the most exciting game,” North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min said Tuesday.
“Japan is one of the top teams in Asia and has good young players. We will try to come up with a strategy on Japan’s attack and defence and how to organise our team. Our players are determined to beat Japan to win the first place.”
“Winning the Asian Games football event will give our players confidence. Our players will be able to participate in the 2016 Olympics with more confidence.”
North Korea are in the final thanks to a dramatic 2-1 semi-final win over South Korea on Monday. With the game seemingly heading for extra-time, a terrible defensive error allowed Ho Un Byol to score deep into stoppage time and spark wild celebrations.
While many in the 7,500 crowd were actively supporting South Korea, others were applauding both teams. No more so than the combined North and South Korean cheering squad.
“We don’t say ‘my’ team but ‘our’ team, which means we back the teams of both Koreas,” the Yonhap agency quoted Kim Jeong Moon as saying.
More than 1,000 members of the cheering team sang, waved flags and unveiled a banner which read: “One Korea, score a goal for unification.”
Kim said afterwards he welcomed the support for his players while South Korean coach Yoon Duk Yeo revealed he hoped the North Koreans triumphed over Japan in the final.
But the Japanese, as reigning champions, will not be in the mood to roll over even in the face of Korean unity. They reached the gold medal match with a convincing 3-0 victory over Vietnam in the other semi-final.