Nanjing: Uzbekistan are ready to take on the world champions – that’s the message from head coach Bahrom Norsafarov as his team prepare to meet reigning FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup winners DPR Korea at the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship in Nanjing on Wednesday.
The Central Asians performed admirably in their opening day 2-0 loss to China PR, but Norsafarov said there is more to come from his team, and they are ready for the challenge ahead.
“After analysing our first game, we noticed we didn’t play as well as we had been preparing, because some players didn’t show 100 per cent of their ability,” he said.
“For the game against DPR Korea, our players will be given functions to play, so we will see what they can do. They are motivated to play against the best in the world.”
Norsafrov – who identified Sung Hyang-sim, Ri Hae-yon and Kim Un-ju as DPR Korea’s key players after their 9-0 rout of Thailand – said his team were familiar with their opponents as individuals from their previous meetings.
“We’ve played against these players before at U-16 level and we know these players personally. This is not the first time,” the coach explained.
Four of his players – Nozima Kamoltoeva, Umida Zoirova, Malika Burkhonova and Maftuna Shoyimova – also played against the DPR Korea senior national team in a Women’s Asian Cup qualifier in Pyongyang in April.
Norsafarov said he would look to those who played in that match – won 4-0 by DPR Korea in front a huge crowd of over 40,000 – to lead by example.
“The players who were involved in the national team, we want them to provide a high quality game. If they show that quality, the other players will follow them,” he said.
“We want only quality against the champions of the world.”
Star DPR Korea forward Sung, who bagged four goals against Thailand on day one, scored twice for the senior side against Uzbekistan that day, and while coach Thomas Gerstner was pleased to see her fit form, he insists the talent in his side runs much deeper.
"A team is not one or two players – its all the players,” he said.
“We have no main members. We have 23 players and we have 23 main members.”
Gerstner was understandably pleased with his side’s demolition of Thailand, and indicated he expected a greater challenge from an Uzbekistan side who impressed against China PR.
“We analysed their match and I saw the match on a file,” he explained.
"I talked to the head coach of China (Hesterine de Reus) and she told me that they make it difficult, and I expect they want to make it difficult against us also.”
As a foreign coach, Gerstner – who has spent the bulk of career in German football – is uniquely placed to understand what drives DPR Korea’s near-continuous success in women’s youth football, and he believes it can be put down to their training schedule.
“It’s not a secret that this team stay together all the time,” he said. "They are not playing in clubs, and as a club I have them nearly every day – only Sunday is a rest. To prepare a national team for such a long time is a great advantage.
“They are proud to play for DPR Korea. They are really proud play that they play for this country.”