North Korea face stiff opposition

SEOUL - Korea DPR will face stiff opposition in their group matches in the 2010 World Cup.

SEOUL - Korea DPR will face stiff opposition in their group matches in the 2010 World Cup.

They have been pitted against five-time champions Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal.

The last time North Korea seized the global stage was at the 1966 World Cup finals when the Asian underdog advanced to a quarterfinal clash with Portugal after stunning the world by defeating Italy.

Nobody had expected the East Asian outsiders to triumph over European teams, but in the end one goal by Park Du Ik against Italy secured them a first-ever berth in the quarterfinals, where the team lost to Portugal 5-3 after leading 3-0.

The victory in England in 1966 was a source of great pride for millions of football fans in the communist country but had become a faded memory, with the hermit kingdom failing to return again to the global stage.

Since then the North Koreans have either failed to qualify or - as in 1998 and 2002 - did not enter at all.

The North Koreans' success in qualifying has been built on safeguarding defence and seeking to score on the counter-attack - a tactic that proved successful against the likes of Jordan, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates and South Korea during qualifying.

One of the challenges facing North Korea is the team's relative inexperience against top foreign opposition. Unlike neighbours and rivals South Korea, who often host international teams for friendlies, North Korea has only recently hosted a friendly with a Brazilian club on November 4, almost for the first time with a non-Asian team at home.

The team is probably at the vanguard of globalisation. Under home-grown coach Kim Jong Hun, it includes South Korean players who were born and bred in Japan - Jong Tae Se and Ahn Yong-Hak - two of their star players.


Kim Jong Hun, who played as a defender for the national team for 10 years, was scouted as coach in September 2007 with the aim of becoming a "defeatless team" instead of a winning one. The 53-year-old coach, even-tempered and a good strategist, says his mission is to fulfil a childhood dream of repeating the 1966 epic run.


Jung Tae Se, 25, a key player for the team's counter-attacking tactics side, plays for the Japanese professional team Kawasaki Frontale. Jung was born and grew up in Japan, and his elder brother, Jung I Se, plays for a South Korean team. - Sapa-DPA