Focus key for defending champs
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By dint of the strength of their respective squads and the quality of their previous meetings, Germany versus Korea DPR is fast becoming the classic rivalry of women’s football. And though their highly-anticipated FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 encounter, scheduled for 19.00 on Thursday 16 September at Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, is at the quarter-final stage this time around, it would unquestionably make a worthy final.

“The Germans have stood out as the strongest team in the competition up to this point. But we’ve also gained a tremendous amount of experience so far, and the lessons that we’ve learned should enable us to face them as equals. I think we’re capable of winning the game,” confirmed Ri Song-Gun, coach of the Asian side, in an exclusive chat with FIFA.com.

We’ve had a really good look at Germany and the matches they’ve been involved in here, and we’re pretty confident of being able to counter their goal threat.
North Korean coach Ri Song-Gun

The statistics, for what they are worth, favour the Europeans, who have emerged victorious from three of the past five games between the sides. While Korea DPR won 2-0 at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Russia 2006, Germany gained revenge by an identical scoreline when they hosted the same tournament earlier this year. The Germans also got the better of the North Koreans at senior level, at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, and at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing two years ago. The only previous meeting in the U-17 category came at New Zealand 2008, when their group-stage game ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

However, as the Germans’ own coach Ralf Peter has been quick to point out, “Previous matches are part of the past. This game will kick off at 0-0, and after that anything could happen.”

“Our preparation has been good and we hope to perform to the best of our ability in the game,” explained Song-Gun, who has imposed an intense training regime on his charges. While other teams still in contention have spent rest-days going on relaxing walks, beach visits or shopping trips, the defending champions simply retired to their hotel to concentrate on the task at hand.

Full focus
“During the group phase, the girls were tense and lacking in confidence. Our long trip here took a lot out of us. Mentally, none of us were at the top of our game,” he added. “But now the players have recovered, they’ve adapted to the weather and they’re in the best possible physical condition and frame of mind to go out and win this game.”

The task nevertheless remains a tricky one, as a free-scoring, explosive unit stands between them and place in the semi-finals. Outstanding in the group stage, the record-breaking Germans won all three matches with ease, scoring 22 times and conceding just once. It is therefore no surprise to see their front line of Kyra Malinowski, Lena Petermann and Lena Lotzen fill the top three spots of the scoring charts at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, with seven, five and four goals respectively. What chance does the opposition have when faced with such firepower?

“Well, we plan to go forwards in numbers, but obviously football is not just about attacking and scoring lots of goals; it’s just as important to nullify the opposition attack, and to stop them from scoring,” explained the Asian coach. “We’ve had a really good look at Germany and the matches they’ve been involved in here, and we’re pretty confident of being able to counter their goal threat.”

He declined to elaborate how his team will go about achieving such an objective, but in a fine example of goodwill between two neighbouring countries with a complex relationship, he did not hesitate to offer some advice to his Korea Republic counterpart on how to overcome Nigeria in their upcoming quarter-final. Having watched his own Korea DPR side come unstuck against the Africans in the group stage, he is well-placed to give his compatriot some tactical pointers. “Let’s hope we both win and meet in the final,” he concluded.