Early on North Korea displayed some of the defencive frailties that have been a hallmark of their campaign. They went behind inside the first minute after a centre back misjudged the flight of the ball, and in form striker Sun, Ke pounced.
By the 15th minute Ke was through on goal again, but on this occasion it was owed to a clever interplay in midfield. The Jiangsu Sainty recruit found himself on the right of the box and unselfishly, sent a low ball across the face of goal. His teammates were unable to meet the ball, for what would have been a tap in.
A regular theme throughout the half were the sightings of both Chinese fullbacks in the attacking third. Manager Alain Perrin it seems has given them license to roam, and coupled with the passing game of Hao, Junmin, the Chinese pose a true threat.
Though it should be mentioned that before Sun, Ke made it 2-0 with a gift of a goal, the North Koreans did open up the Chinese. Jong, Il Kwan lunged at close to full stretch, in order to race the advancing Wang, Dalei (GK) to a lobbed through ball. His contact was too heavy though and the ball sailed over the bar.
With their 2-0 lead in hand China took their foot off the gas in the second half. The replacement of Guangzhou’s battle hardened midfielder Zheng, Zhi may have had a lot to do with the space the North Koreans suddenly had to operate in.
Barely ten minutes into the second half, a cross was allowed to sail from one side of the box to the other. It was left to 22 year old Jong Il Kwan to finish the job, with a neat cut back and finish. Sadly for Jong the goal was labelled an own goal, after deflecting off Gao Lin.
North Korea threatened again late in the match, and this will be something manager Allain Perrin will be analysing in the lead up to the quarter final with Australia in Brisbane.
Asked about China’s second half performance after the match, Zhang, Linpeng put it down to mental strength. “We didn’t concentrate very well, so we made some mistakes.”
Quizzed on how China could beat the Socceroos, the Guangzhou Evergrande fullback indicated his confidence in his French manager. “Australia’s team is a very strong team, the players are very strong, very skillful, very fast. We just need to follow the coach’s instructions,” he said.
China will head to Brisbane as underdogs, and for the first time their fans will be outnumbered. On their side though is the fact they’ve won on the much maligned Brisbane surface, twice. Contrastingly it’s Australia who has been one of the loudest detractors of the pitch.