Korea DPR's women enjoyed decidedly mixed fortunes in 2006. On the downside, the year witnessed the senior national team concede the continental title back to China after losing to their Eastern Asian neighbours 1-0 in the AFC Women's Asian Cup semi-final. However, a major shot in the arm was provided by their youth team, who shocked the watching world by sweeping past many superpowers of the women's game to claim the country's first-ever football world title, the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship. The triumph was made all the sweeter for the fact that the final saw them exact sweet and brutal revenge on China, crushing the Steel Rosebuds 5-0 in the Moscow rain.

Korea DPR first emerged as a force to be reckoned with in women's football at the 1993 AFC Women's Asian Cup, which saw them take the continental stage by story, reaching the final. China denied them glory on that occasion and in the years that followed, they proved Asia's big under-achievers until, in 2001, they returned to the Asian Cup final, where they again faced China, and this time they emerged triumphant. A successful title defence in 2003 cemented the respect in which they continue to be held in their own continent, while in the international arena, Korea DPR have already successfully qualified for two FIFA Women's World Cup finals in 1999 and 2003, although they failed to progress beyond the group stage in either.

The team underwent a transition from 2004 that cost them dearly in 2005 EAFF Championship, in which they were dealt a demoralizing 1-0 defeat by hosts and southerly neighbours Korea Republic. However, the rebuilding process had the desired effect in the 2006 AFC Women's Asian Cup as they beat Japan in an intriguing third-place play-off to book their spot at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup finals.

They may not be among the favourites, but speed, stamina and physical strength, coupled with a trademark never-say-die spirit, are sure to make Korea DPR formidable opponents even for the most powerful of the FIFA Women's World Cup contenders.

Qualification
Korea DPR opened their defence of the continental title in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2006 with a 9-0 mauling of Thailand and cruised to a subsequent 3-0 win over Myanmar. However, the all-conquering looking team then faced an altogether sterner test against hosts Australia in the final group match, which saw them held to a goalless draw by the AFC's newest member.

They then paid for their lack of international experience in the semi-final against China, where, despite performing well in patches, they were edged out by a solitary goal from Ma Xiaoxu. Yet, despite losing three key players to suspension for the all-important third-place play-off against Japan, Korea DPR showed that they don't lack strength in depth, wining 3-2 to progress to China 2007 automatically and leave the Japanese facing yet another play-off.

Coach
An experienced coach, Kim Kwang-Min is the man charged with rebuilding the Korea DPR team. His new-look side made their first appearance on the continental stage at the Eastern Asian Football Federation (EAFF) Women's Championship 2005, where they edged out China and Japan 1-0 but fell to hosts Korea Republic by an identical scoreline. Despite that result, Kim kept faith that his side would improve provided they displayed the right work ethic, and all the recent evidence would suggest that his faith has been justified.

FIFA Women's World Cup history:

  • Failed to progress beyond the group stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 1999

  • Failed to progress beyond the group stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003

What they said...
"We are not happy and satisfied even though we secured a place at the FIFA Women's World Cup because we came to here to be champions," Korea DPR coach Kim Kwang-Min after the 3-2 victory over Japan in the third-place playoff in 2006 AFC Women's Asian Cup.