An early goal to Kyah Simon within the first 48 seconds of the game and Emily van Egmond’s penalty conversion (14th minute) set Australia up for a dominant first half against Korea Republic. The intensity increased in the second half and with that increased physicality, with the second 45 minutes a test of Australia’s defensive capabilities.
Their opponents on the other hand saw a 1-0 win against bottom placed Vietnam to keep them in contention for an Olympic qualifying position. Kim Un-hyang saw an early first half penalty saved by goalkeeper Dang Thi Kieu Trinh, as Korea struggled to convert possession into goals. Coach Kim Kwang-min made a number of early substitutions to shake up the game with the result a last gasp 90th minute goal from Ju Hyo Sim to claim the three points.
With two days break, Australia should have close to a full squad of players to select from. With that in mind, and taking into account the danger posed by DPR Korea, it would be unsurprising if the line up changes are more subtle than that against Vietnam.
In comparison to North Korea, the Australian team is relatively fresh with the likes of Tameka Butt, Caitlin Foord, Caitlin Cooper, Ellie Carpenter, Ashleigh Sykes all playing less than 180 minutes.
While Japan and Australia have forged a friendly and respectful rivalry, that is not the case with Australia and DPR Korea.
These two countries have battled it out for the number two spot in Asia and past encounters have caused each nation heartache. First Australia denied DPR Korea in the 2010 Asian Cup final, with the Matildas battling it out to win on penalties on a rain soaked evening in Chengdu, China.
A year later, it was DPR Korea’s turn to break Australian hearts with a 1-0 defeat of the Matildas contributing to Australia finishing third in the 2011 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers and missing out on London 2012.
The last encounter between the two sides saw Australia defeat DPR Korea 2-1 in New Zealand with Australia controlling most the match.
DRP Korea Player to watch: Ra Un-Sim
Ra was named as one of the six key players in the tournament and is having the anticipated impact for her team. The forward can be found at the point of the DPR Korea attack or, more often than not, dropping into the midfield to play off the equally influential Wi Jong-sim and Ju Hyo-Sim.
Australia’s player to watch: Alanna Kennedy
Kennedy is one of only a handful of players to line up in every match for the Matildas. The Sydney FC centre back has been Australia’s defensive anchor with excellent performances. Kennedy is the likely match up for Ra Un Sim with her pace and physicality a good match for the North Korean captain.
What to expect?
Korea DPR has a reputation for being drilled, disciplined, fit and very physical. However, the edge may just be a little off for the Koreans with the schedule meaning several of their key players have already played three matches in the tournament.
Like Korea Republic, Korea will look to keep a compact defensive block but unlike South Korea, they will look to sit a little deeper and deny Australia space in behind that cut up their neighbours in the opening 15 minutes.
Unlike South Korea, North Korea have the ability to be deadly on the counter attack with one or two passes before they make the long pass to their quick wingers and strikers. This will mean the Australian defence will need to be on their guard in the air, more so than any other team. It could also mean more chances for Lydia Williams to come out, claim and diffuse situations.
Australia can match them physically but, if it is anything like the Korea Republic game, then there might be more than just a few yellow cards.
With Korea struggling to break down Vietnam, the Matildas will like this defensive match up. With Caitlin Foord, Ellie Carpenter or Steph Catley, Stajcic has the players to counter attack the Korean’s favoured method of attack. While centrally, Korea will find it a difficult task to pick through the midfield and central defence. Although in reality, this game will be much more direct than those against Japan and Korea Republic.
In that case, once again for Australia, this match will be about keeping the ball and they will hope to do it more cleanly than they did in the second half against Korea Republic. North Korea love to pressure the ball high and passing their way through the pressure will be key.
Monday 7 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-off: 7:35pm local time (9:35 pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally: 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate (LIVE stream: 7Live.com.au)
Head 2 Head: Played: 4, Won: 2, Drawn: 1, Lost: 2
Last three encounters
10 February 2015: Korea DPR 1 – 2 Australia
30 May 2010: Australia (p) 1 – 1 Korea DPR
5 June 2008: Korea 3 – 0 Australia