Hosts North Korea are playing for pride, while Japan will attempt to bring home a victory from Pyongyang for the first time when the two sides meet on Tuesday afternoon
Jon KI, Pak NC II, Ri KC, Cha JH
Pak NC I, An YH
Jong IG, Ryang YG, Ri CM
Uchida, Yoshida, Konno, Komano
Okazaki, Nakamura, Kagawa
Japan and North Korea will have little more to fight for than bragging rights in their intense rivalry as the kings of Asia travel to Pyongyang for the first time in over 20 years. They will be joined by 150 travelling supporters, 10 members of the domestic press, and, for the first time since economic sanctions began, several employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will be present to ensure the safety of all travelling Japanese.
This match is all but meaningless as both teams sealed their fates on Friday; Japan secured advancement to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a 4-0 victory over Tajikistan, while North Korea will be unable to make a second straight World cup final appearance after falling to Uzbekistan 2-0. The two sides last met in early September when Japan won 1-0 from a late goal by Maya Yoshida.
For Japan the biggest challenge besides the hosts’ physicality will be the artificial pitch at Kim Il-Sung Stadium; few if any of the Samurai Blue have ever played on man-made turf. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni will field his usual 4-2-3-1 line-up but could give several recently-unused players a shot in what’s now no more than a glorified exhibition match. Potentials for a surprise start include youngsters Hiroshi Kiyotake and Genki Haraguchi among others.
Secretive North Korea, for their part, are expected to field a starting lineup similar to that of Friday’s loss at Uzbekistan. After failing to reach the last stage of qualifying, Yun Jong-Su will more than likely be managing his last game. As was the case in their September meeting, plenty of rough play can be expected from both sides in what may be a subdued atmosphere in the stands but a tense one on the field.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- The last match between these two sides in Pyongyang took place on June 25 1989, when North Korea won 2-0.
- Japan continued their 20-match unbeaten streak with their Friday win.
- Japan narrowly leads the series with a 7-4-5 record.
- Japan are winless in four trips to North Korea, having drawn three times and lost once.
- North Korea's lineup includes three players currently active in Japan's J-League (Kim Song-Gi, Ryang Yong-Gi, and An Yong-Hak) and one former J-League star (Jong Tae-Se).
- In addition to football matches, Kim Il-Sung stadium is also a location for the yearly Mass Games.