Lebanon head coach Miodrag Radulovic called on his side to make history as they face North Korea in a Group E decider at the Asian Cup on Thursday.
Neither side has scored a goal or won a point at the tournament so far, but with 16 teams going through to the knockout stages their qualification chances remain alive.
Lebanon – who were knocked out in the group stage in 2000, their only previous Asian Cup appearance – are prepared to get the result they need to stay in the tournament, according to coach Radulovic.
“We are in a tough group,” he told reporters. “Honestly, it was hard taking points away from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Our focus is now against North Korea.
“This will represent a big chance for Lebanese football to create history. I believe in my players and they will be focused to win the game, qualify for the next round and make the fans proud.
“It’s a totally different game and you can’t compare our next match with the ones we had earlier. My players need to be ready to win the game and the pressure will be on me. I have prepared them and they will score goals.”
North Korea head coach Kim Yong-jun expects a tough battle against Lebanon but has faith his players can show their quality at Sharjah Stadium, having shipped 10 goals in defeats to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“This is the first time we are playing with a 24-team format,” he said. “It’s good for the sport, especially in the Asian Cup, as it gives the opportunity for other teams to qualify and this promotes football development in their countries as well.
“My players are ready to get the result. They are in high spirits and we are prepared to go all out to win the match. There is no turning back history, we must now focus on Lebanon and get the three points.”
— #AsianCup2019 (@afcasiancup) January 13, 2019
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Lebanon – Mehdi Khalil
Although Lebanon are yet to score in this year’s Asian Cup, their most important player might just be at the other end of the pitch. Goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil likely needs to keep a clean sheet if they are to have a chance of qualifying for the next round.
North Korea – Pak Kwang-ryong
Like Lebanon, North Korea do not have a player they can rely on to score regularly. But if they are to find the net on Thursday, the goal may well come from Pak Kwang-ryong. He hit three goals during North Korea’s qualifying campaign for the Asian Cup.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first encounter at the Asian Cup between Lebanon and North Korea.
– Lebanon have conceded at least two goals in four of their five Asian Cup games, including each of their two games in this tournament so far, losing both 2-0.
– North Korea have conceded 16 goals in their last four Asian Cup group stage matches, more than their first 11 group games in the competition (15 goals).
– Lebanon have recorded just eight shots in the 2019 Asian Cup so far, no team have had fewer (Palestine and Yemen also eight).
– North Korea are looking to avoid being the second team to lose all their group games at the Asian Cup in successive tournaments after Kuwait in 2011 and 2015.
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