Korea DPR headed home from the AFC Asian Cup today after surrendering meekly at the group stage, picking up just one point and failing to score. The Chollima, who featured at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, boast one of the continent's top strikers in Jong Tae-Se and were considered dark horses for the trophy.
But their campaign was ended yesterday by a 1-0 loss to reigning champions Iraq, following a 0-0 draw with United Arab Emirates and 1-0 defeat by eventual Group D winners Iran.
They needed all three points against the holders to make the last eight, but deservedly went a goal down midway through the first-half and rarely troubled goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid after that. Jo Tong-Sop, who was made the North Koreans' coach following South Africa 2010, believes it might be time for a rethink.
"We got good experience during this tournament," he said. "We learnt that defending is important but that attacking is more important. Using the experience gained in this tournament, we will try to be more attacking in the future."
Jo previously said that after the FIFA World Cup, where they were appearing for the first time since 1966, they had abandoned their tried-and-tested 5-3-2 formation for 4-4-2, in theory making them more attacking. But there is precious little sign the change has made any difference and despite pre-tournament pledges they would go on the offensive, Korea DPR again played on the break in all three matches in Doha.
However, the future is bright, if their youth sides are anything to go by. The U-16 and U-19 teams won their respective Asian titles last year, underlining their potential.
"Our U-20 team has good players technically, and also in defence and midfield, so we will try to combine the young players with the senior ones," Jo commented. "And we will try to display our abilities more in terms of attacking in the future."
Jo felt they might have got the win they so badly needed against Iraq had they kept the score level for longer. "We conceded the goal too early in the first half, this disrupted our tactics," he said. "In the second-half we improved and tried to make chances to score goals, but we lost the match 1-0.
"I think for the players, they had psychological problems and so were unable to read the match. Tactically they didn't do so well, especially when the other team played long and medium-range passes. We didn't react too quickly when we conceded the goal."