It’s a match of destiny. It may be a matchup of the youngest players in the Under-17 (U-17) World Cup, but the players on both sides of the rivalry feel the same way. Both Korea and Japan will take the field with a ‘must win’ on their minds.

Byun Sung-hwan’s U-17 team will take on their ‘fierce rivals’ Japan in the final for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup 2023 title at Pathum Thani Stadium in Thailand tonight (Feb. 2) at 9 p.m. KST. South Korea reached the final after defeating ‘nemesis’ Uzbekistan 1-0 in the semifinals on March 29. This is the first time that Korea and Japan have met in the final of the tournament. If South Korea wins this match, it will be their first U-17 Asian Cup title in 21 years, since 2002.

It’s been a long time coming, and they have a chance to reach the top of the Asian stage. And it’s against a “rival” that they can’t afford to lose to, Japan. South Korea lost 0-3 at the International Dream Cup in Sendai, Japan, in June last year. Despite leading the head-to-head series 11 wins, 9 draws, and 6 losses, Korea has a debt to pay. Head coach Byun Sung-hwan and the Korean players are determined to win.

“In Korea-Japan matches, there are many situations where other factors besides technique and strategy can change the outcome,” Byun said through the Korea Football Association after the quarterfinal victory. “Last year, we lost to Japan in a friendly match. Before this tournament, I dreamed of meeting Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals and Japan in the final, and it came true. The final will be fierce. But we don’t want to lose,” he said, adding that he was determined to win.

At the official press conference a day before the matchup, Byun said, “The matchup I imagined a lot before the tournament has come true. Both Korea and Japan played very well on the way to the final. I want to praise both teams, and I hope that both Korea and Japan will play fair in this match and have a good game and a great match.”

Byun added, “We had some injuries in the quarterfinals, so we played the final four with some players in unusual conditions. “The players are in perfect condition,” said Byun, “and they are highly motivated before the big stage of the final. We are happily thinking about who to start in the final. We will reward our fans with a good performance.”

National team defender Kang Min-woo added: “Japan is a high-scoring team. But we will try not to concede as many goals as possible. We lost to Japan last year, and we want to take revenge this time.” Midfielder Jin Tae-ho added, “Japan’s players are good at managing the ball, looking ahead, and passing it around. We need to focus on defense,” he said, adding, “We’ve been working hard. We’ve been training with blood and sweat. I hope you can cheer us on in the final. We will do our best.”

Japan’s opponents feel the same way. For them, the match against South Korea is a must-win rivalry. “We want to win the final against Korea and advance to the U-17 World Cup as Asian champions,” Japanese midfielder Ryunosuke Sato, who scored a free-kick goal against Iran in the semifinals, told Japan’s DAZN. Japanese defender Yotaro Nakajima added: “Korea is physically big and has technical players. It’s going to be a tough match,” he said, adding, “We’ve grown both individually and as a team through this tournament, and we want to do our best to win the final.”바카라

The Japan Football Association also announced on social media, “The U-17 national team aims to win the tournament for the second time in a row. Please support them,” and shared the news of the Korea-Japan match with interest. Japan has won the tournament a record three times. They will try to win their second consecutive title after winning in 2018. They defeated Iran 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

By reaching the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup, South Korea and Japan also qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is reserved for the top four teams. The U-17 World Cup will be held in Indonesia this November. It will be South Korea’s second consecutive appearance at the tournament after 2019.

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