Korea DPR made their debut in the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament four years ago, when they travelled to neighbouring China PR to take part in Beijing 2008. Pitted against Nigeria, Brazil and Germany in the group stage, the North Koreans got off to a promising start with Kim Kyong-Hwa scoring the only goal of the game against the Nigerians. However, Brazil proved too strong for Kim Kwang-Min’s side as captain Ri Kum-Suk’s late goal came only as consolation in a 2-1 defeat. And the North Koreans could not avoid an early exit, losing 1-0 in the following match against the Germans.
Three years later, Korea DPR returned to China to begin their qualifying campaign for London 2012 under the guidance of coach Sin Ui-Gun. They beat Asian champions Australia 1-0 in the opening match before holding the Chinese hosts to a goalless draw. The North Koreans then came from behind to defeat Korea Republic 3-2, and their never-say-die attitude was again on show in the following game against eventual winners Japan. Despite falling behind through an own goal with seven minutes remaining, they fought back to earn a 1-1 draw with substitute Kim Jo-Ran scoring the equaliser deep into added time. They rounded out their campaign with a flourish as striker Ra Un-Sim scored twice in a 5-0 drubbing of Thailand.
The North Koreans have long been renowned for their defensive approach to the game, but coach Sin Ui-Gun seems to have succeeded in transforming his side with a touch of attacking football over the course of qualifying for London 2012. In his favoured 4-3-3 formation, inspirational Jon Myong-Hwa orchestrated their three-prolonged attack, while the ever-present duo of Ri Ye-Gyong and Jo Yun-Mi pulled the strings in midfield. It remains to be seen whether this attack-minded approach will pay dividends for Korea DPR in the finals, where the North Koreans will be aiming at progressing at least one step further than they did four years ago.
Facts and figures
Ri Kum-Suk, Kim Kyong-Hwa, Ri Un-Suk (2008)
Jon Myong-Hwa (attacking midfielder), Yun Song-Mi (defender)
They finished second in the six-nation competition with three wins and two draws, scoring ten goals and conceding three in the process.
The numbers game
10 – Korea DPR proved to be the most prolific side in the final qualification round, netting ten times in five matches.