An inexperienced and mysterious side, Korea DPR are the overwhelming underdogs heading into their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ opener with Brazil tomorrow. And although, for a majority, the question is not if they taste defeat but by how many they will lose, coach Kim Jong-Hun is targeting one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition.
"Our Group G opponents are very strong," the 53-year-old told FIFA. "But in football, the best teams don’t necessarily win. We will give it our best. We know we need to win to reach the knockout phase, so no matter who we’re up against, we’ll target the three points."
Causing a colossal upset is not unbeknown to Korea DPR. They did, after all, beat the mighty Italy 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals at England 1966. That victory was indebted to some resolute defending and although their capacity to stifle the opposition was crucial to their qualification for South Africa 2010, Kim believes they can also play a bit too.
"Our rivals are expecting to see us focus on defence, because we actually played quite defensively during qualification,” he said. “But our game is not all about playing cautiously – we can also play good attacking football when we need to."
Key to Korea DPR’s attack is Jong Ta-Se, who is in arresting form after scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Greece and netting his side’s goal in a 3-1 defeat by Nigeria. Given his recent prolificacy and role at the apex of a 5-4-1 formation, he will likely be the focus of opposition attention, but Kim hopes this will allow others to sneak into goalscoring positions. Hong Yong-Jo certainly did so in qualifying, finishing as the North Koreans’ four-goal leading marksman, and the long-serving captain is hoping for more of the same at Ellis Park.
"Brazil are indeed a stronger team than us, but we can use our tactics to counter them," he said. "You never know what will happen until the match is over. I have set a personal goal for myself, which is to motivate my team-mates and help my country reach the last 16."
If Jong and Hong fail to click against Brazil, Kim will have the option to summon Choe Kum-Chol from the bench. The 23-year-old scored in defeats of United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan during South Africa 2010 qualifying, and has been compared to the legendary Pak Do-Ik, who netted that famous goal against Italy 44 years ago.
"When people compare me with our legend I can only smile," said Choe, "But we know we can all become legends in this World Cup, and this is our dream."