Korea DPR captured the hearts of the neutrals during the 1966 FIFA World Cup England™. Myung Rae-Hyun's charges also rendered their compatriots euphoric throughout an unexpected dash to the quarter-finals, where they lost 5-3 to a Portugal side comprising Mario Coluna and Eusebio.
The North Koreans have had little cause for celebration since, however, and that legendary match at Goodison Park remains their last at the world finals. It is a statistic their current cast are determined to arrest, and their form to date during Asian Zone qualifying for South Africa 2010 suggests this objective is within their grasp.
The Chollima will kick off the fourth and final round of the preliminaries at United Arab Emirates on Saturday, with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic to face thereafter in Group 2. And while Kim Jeong-Hoon's side may not possess a player as esteemed as Park Ji-Sung, Yasser Al Qahtani or Younis Mahmoud, followers of Japanese football know they have a formidable match-winner of their own.
Kawasaki Frontale striker Jong Tae-Se is known as the ‘Human Bulldozer', likened to Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, and the reason many Japan supporters breathed a sigh of relief when they were drawn apart from Korea DPR. Indeed, few could forget his performance during the sides' 1-1 draw in the East Asian Football Championship 2008, when he broke the deadlock with a fierce left-footed strike.
"I want to do my best for other young North Koreans growing up in Japan," said Jong when asked what it meant to be a Korea DPR international, before answering a question about whether he desired move to Korea Republic's K-League. "I don't think I'd want to go. ."
Having been to many foreign countries, I strongly feel Japan is where I want to be
Jong's ambition at club level is to play in the English Premier League, and if he helps Korea DPR fulfil their mission of returning to the FIFA World Cup after what will be 44 years, the 24-year-old's dream may just become reality.
Two players who crave the headlines Jong has been making for Korea DPR are Ri Han Jae and Ryang Yong Gi, both based in the Japanese second tier with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Vegalta Sendai respectively. The latter, especially, has been in fine form and enjoys considerable popularity as his club's captain.
Ryang was born in Osaka in 1982 and what he lacks in height [he stands at 5ft 8in], he more than compensates for with his work-rate, technique and creative spark. He can also score goals, as he did eight times in 48 appearances last term, and has evolved into a consistent act in midfield. And although he has yet to fully convince Korea DPR coach Kim of his worth, the words of another Japan-born North Korean keep him optimistic.
"Grit your teeth and work hard. Even if you don't get on the pitch, even if you have disappointments, just keep at it and you'll be rewarded," was the advice given to him by Suwon Samsung Bluewings midfielder Ahn Young Hak.
And if Ryang is rewarded with a regular run in the Korea DPR team, he insists will be ready.