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North Korea beat Tajikistan to lift Intercontinental Cup!

North Korea were crowned the Intercontinental Cup 2019 winners as they completed a 1-0 victory over Tajikistan in the final on Friday, July 19 at the EKA Arena, Ahmedabad. It was a second-half strike from substitute Pak Hyon Il that made the difference on the night and sealed the win for his team.

The first half began with North Korea dominating proceedings and enjoying more possession and chances. However, they could not make them count as both teams entered the break with the scoreline goalless and North Korea’s skipper Jong Il Gwan coming closest to finding the net in the 20th minute.

After some fine build-up play down the right, Ri Hyong Jin launched a powerful effort from distance that was spilled by Tajikistan custodian Rustam Yatimov. Gwan latched on to the rebound but his first-time effort went wide of the goal.

The Koreans continued to press for the opener and almost got it in the second minute of added time in the first half. Once again, it was Gwan who connected with a cross from the right but was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Tajikistan started posing a few threats of their own in the second half, the first of which came through Sheriddin Boboev, whose curling effort from 25 yards out in the 51st minute just went past the post.

Eight minutes later, Komron Tursonov showed some quick thinking to fashion a chance for his side but his shot was turned away past the post by North Korea keeper An Tae Song.

It was North Korea that continued to look more dangerous and they finally made their dominance count as substitute Pak Hyon Il opened the scoring in the 71st minute. Latching on to a pass inside the box from Gwan, Pak fired in a shot that deflected off a defender and looped over the keeper and into the net.

Five minutes from time, Tajikistan had a golden chance to equalise, but were denied by the woodwork. A free-kick from the right found substitute Tokhir Maladustov’s head but his effort hit the crossbar and went back into play, with the rebound going shot wide.

The Koreans saw out the game and as a result, they were crowned the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 champions – winning a sum of $50,000 for the same. Tajikistan finished in the runners-up spot, which fetched them $25,000. North Korea skipper Jong Il Gwan was named the Hero of the Tournament for his three goals in the competition, as well as the match-winning assist in the final. He was awarded a sum of $7,500.

In the post-match press conference, North Korea head coach Yun Jong Su hailed the Intercontinental Cup as a “beautiful tournament”. He said, “We are grateful to AIFF for organising this beautiful tournament. The confidence of winning is always so positive. Despite the triumph, we need to work on certain areas. The beauty of the Intercontinental Cup was that we now also know our shortcomings.”

Tajikistan head coach Usman Toshev stated that the result was a “big lesson” for his side ahead of the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. He said, “We congratulate North Korea on the victory. Looking back, I feel we lacked the stamina. However, this was a big lesson for us ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.”

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