Football

North Korea out to shock world again

North Korea shocked the world at the 1966 World Cup football finals in England by knocking out Italy to reach the quarterfinals. At South Africa 2010, it would be a stunner if the Asian underdogs even collect a single point in the first round.

North Korea’s defence will be on high alert in South Africa as Kim Jong Hun’s team have been drawn into Group G alongside five-time champions Brazil, African upstarts Ivory Coast and Portugal.

“Despite reaching the World Cup, we are still far from becoming a world-class team. We will have our work cut out,” North Korean football legend Pak Doo Ik told the FIFA website recently.

Playing in their first and only World Cup before 2010, North Korea were thrashed by the Soviet Union 3-0 before holding Chile to a 1-1 draw in the first two group matches at England 1966. Pak Doo Ik scored late in the first-half against Italy in the final group match and the Asians held on for a 1-0 upset.

In the quarterfinals, it looked like another shock was on the cards when North Korea went 3-0 up against Portugal after 25 minutes.

But the Portuguese superstar Eusebio scored twice on either side of half-time as Portugal scored five unanswered goals in a 5-3 victory.

Since then the North Koreans have either failed to qualify or — as in 1998 and 2002 — did not enter at all. In the 2006 qualification campaign, North Korea lost all but one of their final stage qualifiers.

Kim, a former defender, took over the team in 2008 and moulded his side into a strong defensive unit with a 5-4-1 formation. His tactics of maximising the attack and defence has certainly proved effective.

After brushing aside Mongolia 9-2 on aggregate in the first stage, North Korea finished second behind South Korea in Group 3 without conceding a goal in six matches. In the final stage, Kim’s defence let in just five goals — they scored just seven — in eight matches to again place behind South Korea and book their spot in South Africa.

By reaching the 2010 finals, North Korea finished ahead of traditional Asian powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. And Kim’s North Koreans earned three draws in four qualifiers against South Korea, who won 1-0 in Seoul.

Kim’s focus was clearly on holding his opponents scoreless and North Korean keeper Ri Myong Guk recorded six clean sheets in the third round and four more in the fourth stage for a total of 10 in 16 total qualifiers.

“Our spirit became the unifying force of the team and inspired the players. These factors were the biggest advantages we enjoyed throughout the qualifying campaign,” the coach told the Korea News Daily recently.

The coach: 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 team difficult to beat 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.

The star: Jung Tae Se is a key player for the counter-attacking style North Korea favour. The 25-year-old 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.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 9:18:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/North-Korea-out-to-shock-world-again/article16240117.ece

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