When Korea DPR were grouped with Brazil, Portugal and Côte d'Ivoire, the consensus among the masses was that they had a mountain to climb. North Koreans, however, chose to recall their last appearance at the FIFA World Cup™ in 1966, when they upset the mighty Italy en route to the quarter-finals.
However, another fairytale did not unfold in South Africa, despite a promising start. Indeed, Kim Jong-Hun’s team did impress in the first 135 minutes of their campaign, losing 2-1 to five-time world champions Brazil and only finding themselves 1-0 down to Portugal at half-time. Carlos Queiroz’s side ran riot thereafter, though, emerging 7-0 victors, and Korea DPR signed off with a 3-0 defeat by Côte d'Ivoire
“We regret the results, but there was a real gulf in class between us and our opponents,” striker Jong Tae-Se told FIFA. “Now we have seen what the top players and teams are capable of. They definitely possess an edge over us mentally, physically and technically.”
Under-preparation was certainly not to blame for Korea DPR’s failure. Kim spent considerable time fine-tuning his tactics, and his team played 11 friendlies in 11 months in the run-up to the tournament. It worked a treat for 55 minutes against Brazil, until a wonder strike from Maicon and another brilliant goal from Elano put the South Americans in command. Ji Yun-Nam did halve the deficit to enhance the Asians confidence going into their next game against Portugal, but a forgettable second-half collapse outlined their defects in a bold font before Côte d'Ivoire ensured the underdogs returned home have scored just one and conceded 12 in South Africa.
“I failed to come up with a proper strategy to counter our rivals' fierce attacks,” Kim lamented. “After conceding the first goal, our players pressed too hard and left holes in the back which allowed the Portuguese to score freely.”
The 54-year-old was nevertheless proud of their effort against the Ivorians. “The players put in all their efforts until the last minute,” he said. “This World Cup provided us with useful experience which has laid the foundation for our future development.”
Korea DPR, whose 34 shots yielded just one goal at South Africa 2010, will have to become more clinical if they are to make strides, according to Jong. “While the rivals could capitalise on their technical superiority to score goals, we were unable to do so,” he said. “Our lack of elementary skill made it impossible to win. We must to work harder to improve.”