North Korea are convinced they can weather the suspension of Juventus target Han Kwang-song and get their knockout hopes back on track at Asian Cup 2019 with victory against Qatar, according to head coach Kim Yong-jun.
Cagliari-owned Han, 20, picked up two bookings in eight first-half minutes during Tuesday’s 4-0 thrashing by Group E-favourites Saudi Arabia. This means he will not be present at Al Ain’s Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on Sunday when the men from the Hermit kingdom attempt to avoid almost-certain elimination.
“I can say that without him there will be some effect but I don’t think it will be too big because we have some good players like our captain, Jong Il-gwan, and Pak Kwang Ryong, who plays in Austria, so I don’t think there will be a big effect for the second match,” said Kim, who was a playing member of the World Cup 2010 squad and was appointed to this post only last month.
“Our primary target in this tournament is to qualify for the next round, so for the last three days we have focused in training on the mistakes we made in the first game.”
Han has gone goalless in five Serie B run-outs this term on loan at Perugia.
North Korea were, ominously, beaten 4-0 by Bahrain in their final friendly and these defensive woes continued at Rashid Stadium.
Kim, 35, declared his major goal in the interim has been to build-up the confidence of his troops.
He said: “I didn’t expect that we would concede so many goals in the first game and the players’ spirit was a little bit down and I had to spend more time to cheer the players up and have them mentally ready for this game.
“They’re in a good spirit to win this game and to create the possibility to advance to the next round.”
Elsewhere in the pool, Turkmenistan will take confidence from a rollercoaster 3-2 loss to record four-time champions Japan when they meet Uzbekistan at the Rashid.
The 10-man Uzbeks required a late goal from FC Rostov forward Eldor Shomurodov to defeat Gulf Cup holders Oman 2-1.
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