Intensity to lift


NORTH Korea have given little away heading into their under-20 women’s soccer World Cup quarterfinal against Spain today but there is no doubt coach Hwang Yongbong’s side are genuine title contenders.
The over-arching theme repeated by all the sides has been their respect for the opposition they are facing in the knockout stage and their desire to play their best football.
Japan take on Brazil in tonight’s second quarterfinal match at the National Football Stadium in an interesting clash of styles, with the South American’s flair up against the Japanese skill and finesse.
Tomorrow’s matches at the Sir John Guise Stadium see the US play Mexico and defending champions Germany take on France in the evening fixture.
Being one of two sides to win all their group matches — Germany were the other side to be 3-0 at the end of the first stage — North Korea’s convincing wins over Sweden (2-0), Brazil (4-2) and hosts PNG (7-1) see them head into the match at the NFS expectedly buoyant even if that confidence and momentum are not immediately obvious.
“We’ll keep our playing style and see how we go in the quarterfinal (against Spain),” Yongbong said.
When pressed to give details on his side’s impressive form, Yongbong answered with basically the same points he had to the majority of questions directed at him from the press gallery.
Conversely, Spain’s consistency was an issue, with the side hitting highs and lows in the group stage.
The Spaniards scored a significant 1-0 win over Japan, who went on to top group B, after a 5-0 thumping of Canada in the opening fixture but were exposed somewhat by a physical Nigerian side, losing 2-1 in their final outing last Sunday.
Spain coach Pedro Lopez admitted the Nigerians had taken them out of their comfort zone, but he knew the North Koreans had a style they could handle. “Nigeria exploit the physicality and strength of their players and their individual virtues, whereas Korea work more as a group and have a very structured and organised team. They’re just two very opposing styles,” Lopez said.
Japan coach Asako Takakura said she expected Brazil to pose the biggest challenge to them so far and predicted an exciting match. “The game with Brazil should be a very tough and exciting one as they are a very strong opponent, but we will do our best to qualify,” she said.

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