China 1 – 1 North Korea
(Wei Shiaho ’28 – Jong Il-Gwan ’81)
Wang Dalei – Yiming Liu, Fu Huan (Wu Xi ’24), Zheng Zheng, Deng Hanwen, He Guan – Zhao Xuri, Zhao Yuhao, Zhang Wenzhao (Fan Xiaodong ’62) – Wei Shiaho, Yu Dabao (Liyu Yang’79)
After a draw against South Korea on the opening day and a somewhat unfortunate loss to Japan on Tuesday, China was hoping to end the EAFF Football Championship on a bright note against North Korea.
A good start saw Yu Dabao put the ball in the net behind the Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk but the Beijing Guoan striker had come from an offside position prior to scoring so the goal would not stand.
Then North Korea took over and had plenty of chances of their own in the opening half an hour of the match and a Korean shot was stopped on the line after 15 minutes of play.
China coach Marcello Lippi saw that his side was struggling and sacrificed left-back Fu Huan, who normally plays on the right, after 25 minutes and opted for Wu Xi.
And the change would pay off just a few minutes later as Wu got the ball after a poor North Korean corner and sent Zhang Wenzhao on his way down the line. With the Koreans only leaving one man at the back and Wenzhao easily jumping him both Wenzhao and Wei Shihao found themselves alone in the North Korean half with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Zhang Wenzhao found Wei Shihao inside the box and the young striker could easily slot the ball into the net out of the reach of the scrambling Ri Myong-Guk to give China the lead after 28 minutes.
North Korea’s coach Jørn Andersen seemed to have told his players to keep doing what they were doing in the first 25 minutes when they came out after the break, because North Korea played China off the pitch from time to time.
Wang Dalei was by far the busiest Chinese player on the pitch in the second half and had it not been for him the result could have been much worse. As it was, the inevitable happened after 81 minutes when Jong Il-Gwan curled a free kick around the wall and into the top corner. Wang Dalei took one step the wrong way and was caught off-balance and could do nothing to save the free kick from the Luzern striker.
Rather than giving China a kick up the rear end, it gave North Korea even more reason to push forward and they could easily have taken the win in what was a poor Chinese second half.
In the other match, South Korea stopped Japan from taking the title and claimed it for themselves by winning 4-1. Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring from the penalty spot after only three minutes but then a goal from Jung Woo-Young in between a Kim Shin-Wook brace and finally Kobayashi scored an own goal in the second half.
So that means the 2017 national football calendar is all played out. Jubilant South Korea players and a disappointing China squad, who have failed to record a single win for the first time in the history of the competition, will look back at this tournament with different views.