Since the beginning of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, Korea DPR’s strikeforce has caused havoc in opposition penalty boxes. Having chalked up seven of the 13 goals scored in their nation’s three Group B encounters, Ri Un-Sim and Ri Kyong-Hyang have understandably claimed the majority of the post-match headlines.
But some performances are less easy to judge by statistics alone. Working away in the background supporting the strikers are a handful of skilful and effective midfielders, such as Kim Phyong-Hwa, Choe Yun-Gyong, Ri Hyang-Sim and Choe Chung-Bok, whose duties include creating goalscoring opportunities for the prolific pair.
“It’s not just the front two that you have to worry about, as the danger can come from absolutely anywhere when you play Korea DPR. They’re very difficult to defend against – their midfielders seem to be everywhere,” said USA coach Albertin Montoya, following the 1-1 draw between the two countries that saw the Americans exit the competition on goal difference.
Chung-Bok, who can fulfil the role of defensive midfielder as well as playmaker, typifies the versatility of a side that works enormously hard as a unit. From the outset of the tournament, the North Korean No15’s ability to cover every blade of grass has been remarkable. Capable of breaking up oncoming incursions with the same prowess with which she sparks an attack, she is the lynchpin of the starting XI.
As befits her status of captain, Chung-Bok is keen to share the plaudits she has received with her team-mates. “I’m first and foremost happy for the team, because we fought so hard. We have some strong individual players, but we perform as one,” she told FIFA.com.
Perseverance and confidence
Chung-Bok embodies the qualities valued highly by Hwang Yong-Bong, the man at the helm of the U-17 side, who has emphasised how important unity, fighting spirit and teamwork have been in enabling the North Koreans to advance to the quarter-finals at Azerbaijan 2012.
At the final whistle of the group match against USA, the coach was eager to “congratulate all of the players for the energy they showed for 90 minutes in order to get the result we needed”.
Perseverance is also a trait displayed by the Korea DPR players and staff. “Qualifying for the last eight of the competition is a great achievement, but it’s not the end of the road,” explained Chung-Bok. “We’ll need to put in even more effort in our quarter-final match versus Canada. Against USA, although we got the result we wanted, we didn’t play as well as we can. I’m sure that we can do better, and that my team-mates will give their all,” she added.
In the North Korean camp, the key word appears to be ‘confidence’. “This tournament has been a wonderful experience for us. But the most important thing is winning, and I feel like we've got what it takes to win this U-17 World Cup. In fact, I’ve no doubt about it,” said Chung-Bok.
“I have total confidence in my team-mates. My football idols are not Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Homare Sawa or even Marta, but the 18 other players that make up this Korea DPR squad,” she concluded.