(Asiad) N. Korea beat Kyrgyzstan for 2nd straight win in men’s football, inch closer to knockouts

North Korea defeated Kyrgyzstan 1-0 for their second straight victory in men's football at the Asian Games on Thursday, stepping closer to the knockouts with the possibility of a showdown against South Korea looming.

Forward Kim Kuk-jin scored for the second match in a row to help North Korea squeeze past Kyrgyzstan in Group F action at Zhejiang Normal University East Stadium in Jinhua, southwest of the main host city, Hangzhou.

North Korea opened the competition with a 2-0 win over Chinese Taipei on Tuesday.

With six points, North Korea climbed to the top of Group F, three ahead of both Indonesia and Chinese Taipei. North Korea and Indonesia will square off with the top seed at stake on Sunday.

The top two teams from each of the six groups, plus the four best third-place teams, will advance to the knockouts. North Korea have assured themselves of at least a third seed in Group F.

Playing at the same time elsewhere in Jinhua on Thursday, South Korea eased past Thailand 4-0 to secure the top seed in Group E. If North Korea finish in second place in Group F, then the two Koreas will clash in the round of 16 next Wednesday at Jinhua Stadium in Jinhua.

It would be the first all-Korean men's football showdown at an Asiad since the gold medal match in 2014, when South Korea prevailed 1-0 on Rim Chang-woo's extra-time score.

North Korea have yet to concede a goal at this Asiad, their first international football appearance since the Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship in January 2020.

Playing direct and speedy football, North Korea put pressure on Kyrgyzstan on the wings, with Kim Pom-hyok and Paek Chung-song delivering crosses for Kim Kuk-jin and Ri Jo-guk to create chances.

Kim Kuk-jin netted the match's lone goal off a cross by Kang Kuk-chol in the 20th minute.

About 30 North Korean female cheerleaders, decked out in white t-shirts bearing their national flag on the front, showed support for their national team.

Individuals who appeared to be cheermasters didn't acknowledge a Yonhap News Agency reporter when approached.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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