Preview: Palestine vs. DPR Korea (2018 AFC U23 Championship)

Oday Dabagh warms up in Jiangyin ahead of Korea DPR clash

Game Information

What: 2018 U23 AFC Championship (Group Stage)
When: January 13th, 2018
Where: Jiangyin Stadium, Jiangyin, China 
Kickoff: 10 AM Jerusalem Time
Streams/TV: Streamed Live on our Facebook Channel. 

Previous Encounters: 
10.11.2010 Palestine 0:3 DPR Korea (2010 Asian Games)

Round 1 Results 
Palestine 0:1 Japan
DPR Korea 1:0 Thailand 


That’s the buzzword of the week following Palestine’s brave display against the current holders of the competition. A 1-0 loss is perhaps the best Palestine could have hoped for before the match, but there was one golden chance that fell to Mahmoud Yousef that could have clinched a point five minutes from time. 
That said, the set back does not derail Palestine’s hopes for qualifying for the next round and multiple scenarios are still in play (more on that later). 
In an interview with the AFC, Mohammed Rashid, Palestine’s best player against Japan shed light on the discussions during half time “After our second half performance, the coach gained more confidence in us and the players also gained more confidence,” 

“Japan are an amazing team, I have yet to play against a team that move the ball this way….

They were very confident with each other, and had the techniques and tactics. They were well organized and playing against a team like that is a pleasure.”

“So right now, what we are looking forward to is to do our best and do better in the next two games to advance to the next round.” 

Unknown Quantity 

Palestine and Korea DPR are not familiar foes and that ignorance will most likely present a challenge. A previous generation faced each other in 2010 at the Asian Games and the senior teams met two years later during the AFC Challenge Cup. 
Palestine might have the upper hand in terms of exposure. Their qualification opponents were more varied with a representative from West, Central, and South Asia traveling to Hebron to take part. The Chollima were handed preliminary tests against exclusively South East Asian opponents Hong Kong, Cambodia, & Laos. 
Palestine also arranged a friendly with Vietnam a week before their game against Japan. 
DPR Korea Ri Hun recognizes the challenges Palestine poses. 
“There aren’t any weak teams here, and in football matches the result is so unpredictable. All we have to do is to play our best to win the next match.”

“We don’t know much about Palestine and haven’t played against them before, but the next match is still going to be important for us to qualify to the knockout stage.

“But we have studied them from the Qualifiers (in July) and we are prepared.”
Palestine’s recent additions give them an added mask as a total of four starters weren’t part of the qualification process. A fifth player, Mohammed Darwish, came off the bench and provided a key pass for Palestine’s best chance of the game, was also absent from the qualification phase. 

Korean Threat

A look at the statistics of the DPR Korea – Thailand match shows a Korean victory despite being bossed in almost every element of the game. 
The Koreans had less possession (47%), won fewer corners (3 to 7), completed less passes and attempted fewer passes. Alarmingly, the Chollima were intercepted 24 times by the Thais and could only return the favor on six occasions. 
This is very much a unit that knows how to defend capably and have a knack for beating Thailand (they were 1-0 winners during the M-150 Cup last month) and had better scoring chances in Wednesday’s game. 
Palestine should try to press high up the pitch as they did in the second half against Japan but will need to be focused at all times against a side able to score even when conditions are not in their favor. 

Qualification Scenarios 

There are scenarios that could see Palestine advance with a draw or a loss in this game. If they lose, Ayman Sandouqa’s men will need Thailand to upset Japan and then hope they can beat the War Elephants on the final match day with the Koreans also beating Japan. 
Given Japan’s strength that series of events is unlikely to unfold. 
If Palestine draw in this match a win against Thailand on Tuesday could be enough to get them to the quarterfinals. Palestine will have to hope Japan beats DPR Korea (preferably by more than a goal) to book their ticket to the next round.  
Korea DPR will advance to the next round if they beat Palestine and Japan win or draw against Thailand.  

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