Japan defy crowd to beat North Korea for Asian Games football gold

Hangzhou, China: Japan were booed but kept their cool in an "interesting" atmosphere to beat North Korea 4-1 and retain their Asian Games women's football crown on Friday.

The crowd of over 35,000 in the Chinese city of Hangzhou was overwhelmingly in North Korea's favour and booed the Japanese players when they went on the attack.

After going in 1-1 at the break, Japan scored three goals in the space of six second-half minutes to silence the stadium.

Japan coach Michihisa Kano said his players "felt the tension" but were calm enough to deal with it.

"The atmosphere was quite interesting, but all our players played with confidence," said Kano, whose team went into the final averaging seven goals a game in Hangzhou.

"We had some difficulties in the game but everyone came together to overcome the challenges."

Kano said his players knew what to expect after beating China 4-3 in the semi-finals.

"That really made us feel like we were the away team," he said.

"We were mentally prepared for this game and we kept our cool and won the match."

Japan took an early lead through Yoshino Nakashima, only for Kim Kyong Yong to level for North Korea less than 10 minutes later.

The two teams remained deadlocked until Haruka Osawa, Momoko Tanikawa and Remina Chiba hit a three-goal salvo to put the result beyond doubt.

It gave Japan their third gold in the last four Asian Games and Kano said the country's youth system was behind their success.

"We have been very systematic in training young players," he said.

"Our system is based on regions but we have the same training programme regardless of gender.

"We have a very comprehensive young player training system, and we go for the same targets."

North Korea have won Asian Games gold three times previously but they were appearing at their first international tournament since the coronavirus pandemic.

Coach Ri Yu Il said his team had "presented a good image" with their performances at the Games.

"We created some scoring opportunities and we played very well, but when it comes to defence and positioning there were some problems," he said.

"We lost, but in general we played well and the advantages outweigh the disadvantages."

North Korea lost An Myong Song when she was stretchered off with an injury midway through the first half.

Ri said he was confident his team can continue to hold its own in international competition.

"The development of women's football in Asia is very close to the international level," he said.

"We are part of the development process. I would say the trend is very positive."

Hosts China took the bronze medal after thrashing Uzbekistan 7-0.

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