World Cup 2010: Ten Things to Expect From North Korea
Not much is known about North Korea, though that is going to change over the next week or so, in football terms at least. Here’s the lowdown on what to expect from the World Cup outsiders.
Let’s talk about goalkeepers in leggings shall we. Even though current shot-stopper Ri Myong Guk isn’t the first DPRK man at the goal to favour long pants over short ones but he is perhaps the most consistent. His black bottoms are always on and there is no reason to suggest that it will be any different on those chilly winter evenings in South Africa.
Footballers can also expect to witness a very powerful defence. Fourteen games in the two qualification groups saw the goalkeeper pick the ball out of his net in a total of five times which is not bad at all when you consider the standard of some of the opposition faced. North Korea is unapologetically defensive. Of course, there will also be some spectacular goals scored by them. North Korea may not score many but the goals that do come are always beautiful. As well as the classy Hong Yong Jo and the brutal Jong Tae Se, watch out for the goal scoring instincts of Mun In Guk and defender Pak Nam Chol.
There might not be much for the media though as the North Korean national team is not a set-up that encourages chats to the press. The bare minimum that FIFA usually requires, which is 15 minutes during training, is pretty much the best that most can hope for. Press conferences tend to be short, serious and give nothing away.
World Cup watchers will surely be exposed to some swift counter-attacks from the North Koreans. Sure, this is a team that defends and does so without an ounce of guilt but there is an ability to move the forward so quickly that it can surprise opposition. Before you know it, the ball has gone from Ri Kwang Chon to Hong Yong Jo to Jong Tae Se.
The coaching staff and players may say little before and after games but the North Korean bench is a lively one. Coach Kim Jung Hun can be seen standing for the full ninety minutes, watching the game intensely, pausing only to turn around to his assistants in exasperation. Those assistants are up and down and have been sent to the stands more than once by Asian referees. Teamwork is the theme that runs through the North Korean side. The forwards sacrifice their attacking instincts and put the team first. This is a side with no egos and one that has been together for years with a collective spirit that is likely to be unmatched elsewhere.
There are no expectations in North Korea. This isn’t a case of the people back home thinking that their hardy heroes will be able to overcome the superpowers. There are no illusions as to the fact that Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal are in a different league. A point would be hailed as a success and a win would be huge. North Korea can play without burden or pressure, something that can’t be said for any of their three group opponents.
Jong Tae Se the team’s hit man can speak a little Portuguese which is great considering the group the team is in. He wants his goals to do most of the talking though and the Kawasaki Frontale man wants to score one a game. The uniform for fans in Pyongyang is pretty dull and gray but for those that watch the Chollima overseas, white or red is the colour. Large pockets of men and women, most of who come from Japan and, to a lesser extent, China are often seen in white shirts, white caps and with plastic clappers.