North Korea suffered late heartbreak against Japan
on Saturday in a 1-0 football defeat played out against the backdrop of
heightened political tensions over Pyongyang's recent missile launches.
Yosuke Ideguchi's deflected winner deep into
stoppage time in the East Asian Championship match in Tokyo gave Japan victory
against a plucky North Korean side who were arguably more deserving of the
South Korea, who like Japan are caught in the middle
of an escalating war of words between their communist cousins and Washington,
were held 2-2 by China earlier in the tournament opener.
Cheered on by around 1,000 vocal North Korea
supporters, separated from Japan fans by a section of seating kept empty by
organizers, the visitors peppered the Japan goal but paid for a lack of end
were very unlucky tonight," North Korea coach Jorn Andersen told
reporters. "It's psychologically very hard to take a goal like that in the
last minute," added the former Norway international, whose side registered
11 shots on goal to Japan's six.
very proud of my players. The only thing missing was our finishing
A politically charged encounter that came after a
string of missile launches and North Korea's sixth nuclear test in September
turned into something of a damp squib.
The home side, who like South Korea have qualified
for next year's World Cup in Russia, failed to impress but Japan coach Vahid
Halilhodzic refused to blame the frosty relations between the countries.
are not here to talk about politics," insisted the Franco-Bosnian.
"We are sporting rivals on the pitch, but nothing more provocative than
that. After the match we all shook hands."
The biennial East Asian tournament was first held in
2003 when South Korea won the first of their three titles, a year after
reaching the semifinals of the World Cup as co-hosts with Japan. — SG