FootballFootball News

Japan edge North Korea in politically charged East Asian Championship opener

Tokyo, Japan: North Korea suffered late heartbreak against Japan on Saturday in a 1-0 football defeat played out against the backdrop of heightened political tensions over Pyongyang's recent missile launches.

Yosuke Ideguchi's deflected winner deep into stoppage time in the East Asian Championship match in Tokyo gave Japan victory against a plucky North Korean side who were arguably more deserving of the three points.

South Korea, who like Japan are caught in the middle of an escalating war of words between their communist cousins and Washington, were held 2-2 by China earlier in the tournament opener.

Cheered on by around 1,000 vocal North Korea supporters, separated from Japan fans by a section of seating kept empty by organisers, the visitors peppered the Japan goal but paid for a lack of end product.

"We were very unlucky tonight," North Korea coach Jorn Andersen told reporters.

"It's psychologically very hard to take a goal like that in the last minute," added the former Norway international, whose side registered 11 shots on goal to Japan's six. 

"I'm very proud of my players. The only thing missing was our finishing tonight."

A politically charged encounter that came after a string of missile launches and North Korea's sixth nuclear test in September turned into something of a damp squib.

The home side, who like South Korea have qualified for next year's World Cup in Russia, failed to impress but Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic refused to blame the frosty relations between the countries.

"We are not here to talk about politics," insisted the Franco-Bosnian. "We are sporting rivals on the pitch, but nothing more provocative than that. After the match we all shook hands."

The biennial East Asian tournament was first held in 2003 when South Korea won the first of their three titles, a year after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup as co-hosts with Japan.

Related Articles

Back to top button