x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Jo hands out the silent treatment

Group rivals Iraq fail to appear for media date as the Emirates' opponents North Korea also remain tight-lipped.

North Korea's coach Jo Tong-sop instructs his players during training this week. Jo Yong-Hak / Reuters
North Korea's coach Jo Tong-sop instructs his players during training this week. Jo Yong-Hak / Reuters

DOHA // Iraq, the holders, and North Korea could face sanctions from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for failing to send a player to their media conferences yesterday ahead of their opening Asian Cup matches.

"The teams are obliged to bring one player to every pre-match conference. We will pass on this matter to the AFC disciplinary committee for them to decide," an AFC official said.

North Korea will play the UAE in the Group D opener at the Qatar Sports Club today before the other pool match between Iraq and Iran at the Al Rayyan Stadium tonight.

Jo Tong-sop, the North Korea coach, was late for their scheduled 11.30am media briefing, which the team's spokesman and translator said was his fault, and was re-arranged for 1.30pm.

A question put to Jo in English about the difficulties of coaching a side in a heavily restricted country were not translated by the team spokesman, who told people to come to North Korea and find out for themselves.

North Korea were one of Asia's four representatives at last year's World Cup but after a spirited display in losing 2-1 to Brazil, they were humbled 7-0 by Portugal and 3-0 to Ivory Coast.

Jo replaced Kim Jong-hun after the tournament in South Africa and said the team had learned from only their second World Cup finals appearance and were aiming to reach the quarter-finals in Qatar.

Should they reach the last eight the North could possibly face South Korea but Jo refused to talk about a match between the two countries, who remain technically at war and have exchanged artillery fire since the sinking of a South Korea navy ship last year.