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Favoured South Koreans wary of Young Tigers’ attack ahead of AFC U23 showdown

South Korea are not about to underestimate Malaysia ahead of their quarter-final clash at the AFC U-23 Championships in the Chinese city of Kunshan on Saturday afternoon.

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The young Taeguk Warriors, who won Group D after finishing above Vietnam, Australia and Syria, are seen as the clear favourites against the Malaysians, who are making their first ever appearance in the tournament.

Malaysia are a team that counter-attacks well ... we have to be sure that we can attack intelligently

- Kim Bong-kil

Under Ong Kim Swee, Malaysia took second spot in Group C behind Iraq following a surprise final-game victory over Saudi Arabia.

Regardless of how many expect the match to unfold, the South Koreans will be on their guard.

Korea coach Kim Bong-kil has been impressed with the Southeast Asians and busy analysing their opponent’s performances in the group stage, when they bounced back from an opening 4-1 defeat against Iraq to draw with Jordan before stunning Saudi Arabia.

“Malaysia are a team that counter-attacks well,” Kim said.

Korea's attack has started to fire

“I know that they prepared well for the tournament and we have to be sure that we can attack intelligently.”

We are looking forward now to Malaysia. We have to be ready and make sure we have lots of attacking options

- Han Sung-gyu

That was a sentiment echoed by Korea’s star midfielder Han Sung-gyu, who expects a tough battle if they want to reach the final four.

“Malaysia are not a weak team,” Han, who plays for K-League team Ulsan Horangi, told reporters.

“I think that any team that reaches the last eight is strong.”  

Korea came under fire at home for their performances in the opening two games, which featured a 2-1 win over Vietnam and a goalless draw with Syria before top spot was clinched by defeating Australia 3-2.

“We struggled in attack in the first two games,” Han said. “The players had a number of meetings and I think our improved communication helped us win the Australia game.

“We are looking forward now to Malaysia. We have to be ready and make sure we have lots of attacking options,” he added.

Kim feels his attack is starting to click at just the right time.

“Our target is to score like we did in the Australia game,” he said.

“We were lacking offensively in the first two games but I was happy with the attacking display we showed when we scored three goals.

“I told my players to play with confidence and I was happy with our shooting ability and the speed we played at in crucial moments.

“We know that we still have work to do and need to keep improving.”

Photos: AFC