With maximum points from their opening two games, Korea DPR could hardly have wished for a better start to their FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup 2010 campaign.
The Koreans have reached the final of the last two editions of the tournament and, after claiming the trophy in Russia in 2006 and finishing runners-up at Chile 2008, can no longer be considered dark horses at this level. Indeed, the Asians' impressive record speaks volumes not only for the quality of the team, but also the popularity of women's football in North Korea.
"It's always difficult to compare men's and women's football. The men's game is only just developing back home, but the women's is already very popular because we've won so many titles in the past," said coach Choe Kwang Sok.
Praise from the competition
Korea DPR booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 2-1 victory over New Zealand on Friday, and Choe already has his sights on more success, saying: "Our main goal is the final."
What is more, after watching his side succumb to the Asians, a defeat that ended their own hopes of reaching the knockout stages, New Zealand coach Tony Readings is convinced that the Koreans have what it takes. "Korea DPR are a very strong side and we've learned plenty from this match. I wish them all the best for the rest of the tournament. They have the quality to reach the final," said the Kiwi coach.
"I thank the New Zealand coach for his kind wishes. It was a very difficult game for us today. We were contending with a very strong, physical team and we're delighted to have reached the next round," responded Choe.
Korea DPR could well face a European team in the last eight, meaning another physical battle is on the cards. "We need to be able to beat European sides at the finals. We're representing the entire Asian continent," Choe told FIFA.com back in May.
After putting her side 1-0 ahead with just 12 minutes on the clock, Yun Hyon Hi played a major role in the North Koreans' success against the All Whites. "We knew before the game that if we won, we'd be in the quarter-finals. It was a great moment for me personally to score the opening goal," said the 17-year-old.
And she also revealed she does not have any preferred opponents in the last eight. "You have to take it as it comes. We're confident enough that we can get past the quarter-finals," said Yun, whose side first have their final group match against a promising Sweden outfit to negotiate.
"In the match against New Zealand we struggled to translate the good things we've been doing in training into the match," said Yun as the interview concluded. "I'm not exactly sure why that was, but we'll be working hard to iron those things out and go as far as we can in this competition."