Match Report:

DPR Korea 1 Saudi Arabia 4

DPR Korea – Ryang Yong-Gi 11′
Saudi Arabia – Naif Hazazi 37′, Mohammed Al Sahlawi 52′ 54′, Nawaf Al Abed 77′

It was do or die for both teams ahead of today’s second round match between Saudi Arabia and DPR Korea in Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

Head coach Cosmin Olaroiu made several changes in his starting eleven by introducing Hassan Muath and Abdullah Al Zori replacing Saeed Muwallad and Yasser Al Shahrani, respectively. Mustafa Bassas also gave way to striker Mohammed Al Sahlawi resulting in a 4-2-2-2 formation.

All indications from the kick off led to believe that the Saudi’s would have total control of the game but were not able to threaten Ri Myong-guk’s goal. The pattern of dominant possession and little end product from the second half of Saudi’s match against China looked like it would continue to trouble Olaroiu’s men.

The little confidence that the Saudis had was put to test in the 11th minute when Park Kwang-ryong unleashed a powerful shot from right side of the box that goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah could only parry off to find an unmarked Ryang Yong-Gi who easily put it away giving the North Koreans the lead.

The Green Falcons kept calm as they found the rhythm in the final third that they had been desperately in search for in the first round.

The Saudi’s first opportunity came when Naif Hazazi found an Osama Hawsawi cross in the 17th minute only for his effort to go wide. They continued to push with combinations between their front four of Al Dossari, Al Abed, Al Sahlawi, and Hazazi but DPR Korea’s defence was still solid. An effort followed in the 31st minute when a headed pass from Osama Hawsawi from a corner found Al Sahlawi, who attempted an outrageous bicycle kick that fizzed past the right post.

Saudi Arabia’s labour was finally realised in the 37th minute when Nawaf Al Abed found Naif Hazazi on the edge of the box, who then smashed it in between the keeper’s legs to level things up. Saudi never looked back after that.

Nawaf nearly doubled the score in the 42nd minute when he controlled a cross on his chest and volleyed it with his weak right foot to Ri Myong-guk’s left, only for him to push it out for a corner.

The half ended in a 60/40-possession split in favour of the Saudis, with 2 shots on target each. Possession this time however looked like it was part in parcel of attempts to score rather than possession for the sake of possession.

The second half began right where the first half left off with Saudi’s front four and their full backs attacking Ri Myong-guk’s goal mercilessly. Seven minutes in the second half, they found their second when Abdullah Al Zori found Mohammed Al Sahlawi in the six yard box with a ground cross which Al Sahlawi easily tapped in to give them the lead.


Two minutes later, Al Sahlawi’s constant pressure on DPR Korea’s back line paid off when Jang Song-hyok’s error resulted in Al Sahlawi controlling it on his chest and calmly placing it in the back of the net. At this point, it looked like the match was over.

Nevertheless, Al Dossari made a spectacular run from the left that was somewhat reminiscent of Fahad Al Ghusheyan when he dribbled past 3 defenders and chipped the keeper only for it bounce off the crossbar and into Ri Yong-jik’s arm, who was immediately shown a red card and subsequently, a penalty was awarded. Nawaf Al Abed stepped up and scoffed it at Ri Myong-guk, who got a hand on it and pushed it to his right post which found a running Al Abed and Taiseer Al Jassim looking for the rebound with the former getting to it before Taiseer for the fourth goal. The goal temporarily placed the three time Asian champions on top of the table.

The last ten minutes saw a couple of attempts by the Koreans, but it was way past over. DPR Korea was officially out of the tournament, leaving the match between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan as a winner-takes-all event with Saudi also having an opportunity to qualify with a draw.

Report Card

Star performer

Nawaf Al Abed (Saudi Arabia) – The midfielder looked at his very best in the match. Making runs, finding teammates with decisive passes, and also taking clinical shots on the opposition’s goal. With one assist and a goal to his name, Al Abed deserved his man of the match award.


Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia) – The former Saudi captain and Anderlecht player was not in his comfort zone in the match. Hawsawi made an error leading to Korea’s only goal in the match, and could have easily awarded another goal or two in the dying minutes of the match.

Saudi Arabia overall

The Saudis bounced back in sensational manner after their disappointing defeat to China in the first round. The calmness and certainty in the final third that was missing from the defeat was finally present. If the Saudis can maintain this form, they can see Uzbekistan through, and possibly even have a title challenge in the mix.

DPR Korea overall

The Koreans wouldn’t want to remember this game other than the fact that this was their first goal in the tournament since 1992. The East Asian team looked overconfident after the 12th minute mark, barely putting up a fight in the process.


Saudi Arabia finally made a showing representing that of a former champion. This was their first win in 6 matches with the last win remembered in 2007. If they are to challenge for their 4th Asian crown, this performance should be the standard. DPR Korea is officially out, as meek performances in their first two fixtures shouldn’t be worthy of a knockout stage qualification.

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