Bahrain’s campaign in the football competition of the 19th Asian Games came to a disappointing end yesterday when they went down 2-0 to North Korea in their round-of-16 knockout game in Hangzhou, China.
The North Koreans were initially unable to break free from the shackles imposed by some good Bahraini defending but, just when it looked like the first half would end without either team having bothered the scorers, defender Kang Kuk-chol put the South-East Asian side 1-0 ahead in the last second of an added minute of injury time.
Buoyed by their sudden stroke of luck, the North Koreans went 2-0 up in the 62nd minute, courtesy of midfielder Kuk-Bom Kim who managed to score from a distance.
“Luck didn’t favour us in this game,” a disappointed Bahrain head coach, Dario Basic told the GDN by phone from Hangzhou.
“But I have to admit that the North Koreans were better than us. We were not aggressive enough, we were not able to keep possession enough and we didn’t pass well so that’s probably what cost us.
“However, we were also a little bit unlucky because they managed to score their first goal in literally the last second of the first half. If we had entered the break with the scoreboard showing 0-0, perhaps it could have been a psychological boost for our boys and things might have turned out differently in the second half.”
Ultimately, though, Basic added, Bahrain’s defeat was probably due to the fact that his players were much younger and less experienced than their North Korean counterparts.
“It’s simple, really,” he explained.
“All the North Korean players were 23 or almost 24, plus they had three overage players. In contrast, all our players were born in 2003 or 2004 and we only had two overage players.
“Most people probably wouldn’t understand that an age difference like this makes a big difference. When a player in one team is 23, for example, and another player in the second team is only 19, the older athlete will have the jump on the younger one because he’ll be stronger physically, his muscles will be more developed, he’ll be more mature, more confident and unafraid to make mistakes.
“So North Korea benefited from that advantage.”
Still, despite the disappointment of having to head home early, Basic said he was happy with his squad, adding that the experience of having participated in a high-intensity competition would prove beneficial for them.
“We really believed that we could beat the North Koreans but, despite the defeat, I’m really happy that the players got this invaluable experience in this entire tournament,” he said.
“This will help them to grow and mature as players and they’ll be even better in the future because of it.”