"It's our biggest dream. We're ready to beat anyone because our target is to win the trophy." These were Korea DPR defender Jon Yun-Sim's words in the immediate aftermath of the 3-0 victory over Venezuela that booked her team's place in the final of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Jordan 2016.
When the final whistle sounded, while joy swept through the sections of the stadium where their fans were congregated, the delighted Korea DPR players and coaching staff formed a circle for a short victory speech, which was concluded with a hearty round of applause. After that, however, the youngsters headed straight for the dressing room without any outward display of emotion or even raising their voices – an understated reaction surely born of an awareness that their mission has not yet been accomplished.
Jon subsequently came to talk to FIFA.com, answering all of our questions with good humour and the same poise she has been showing in the heart of defence alongside Ri Kum-Hyang, her centre-back partner.
A formidable platform
The North Korean backline would have been justified in expecting to endure a torrid time in the semi-finals at the hands of Deyna Castellanos, who had run rampant in her three previous matches. As it was, Jon and her fellow defenders' discipline and preparations paid rich dividends and they managed to shackle the Venezuela attacker. As the 17-year-old stopper put it, "We knew that we were up against a great player who had shown her talent against other sides. We studied her movements using video analysis, listened to the coach's instructions and followed them. Thanks to that work, we were able to nullify her threat."
After kicking off their campaign with a thrilling 3-3 draw with England, Korea DPR have been a lean, mean machine at the back thereafter, with Jon and Ri in dominant form. Indeed, only Ghana's Gifty Acheampong has been capable of putting the ball in their net since, in the quarter-finals.
On the basis of what we've shown in our games so far, we can beat anyone.
"We were very nervous at the beginning of the tournament because it was our first match at the World Cup. After that, though, we resolved to be more solid at the back and I think that our positioning has improved too. That has made everything else easier. I've been playing with her [Ri] for many years, so we have a really good understanding," said Jon about her team's stout defensive efforts.
Sights set on regaining the title
Jon seemed in a confident mood as she watched the action get underway in the second semi-final, between Japan and Spain. When asked which of the two she would prefer to take on for the trophy, she replied emphatically: "I don't think that way. We're in the final and we mustn't focus on the opponents but rather on our own performance. We've got faith in ourselves and have come here to win the title, whoever we're up against. On the basis of what we've shown in our games so far, we can beat anyone."
The centre-half had no personal memories to call on when asked about her country's first and only triumph in this competition to date, back in 2008. Nevertheless, she has taken inspiration from that feat: "I was young at the time and I didn't watch the match. I read about the victory in the newspaper and ever since then I've wanted to follow in those players' footsteps and be one of the best."
"I'm going to check out the highlights on FIFA.com and see how they went about things back then. I think doing so will really help us as we look to reclaim the trophy eight years on," she added.
As it happens, waiting in the final are none other than holders Japan, whom the North Koreans defeated to taste glory at last year's AFC U-16 Women's Championship. Jon and Co therefore have every reason to fancy their chances when they get reacquainted with these familiar foes at Amman International Stadium this Friday, 21 October. Now all that remains to be seen is whether history will repeat itself and Korea DPR will return to the top of the world.