Korea DPR caused a huge stir by reaching the quarter-finals of the 1966 FIFA World Cup England™. Thereafter, however, they were silent on the international stage.
That was until recently, when Kim Jong-Hun's qualified for the global finals for second time. "Our spirit became the unifying force of the team and inspired the players," the coach told the Korea News Daily. "These factors were the biggest advantages we enjoyed throughout the qualifying campaign."
Technically and physically, Kim believes Korea DPR have shown they are more than capable of competing among Asia's elite. "The players' qualities ensured they can cope with any difficult games and achieve satisfying results. Furthermore, with the strike partnership between Hong Yong-Jo and Jong Ta-Se, we can catch opponents out with our speed in attack," he said.
We will prove that we are not going to the World Cup just to make up the numbers. We are confident about competing against the best teams.
"We didn't model our game on any accomplished sides in the world, but made our own strategy based on the players we had. We chose to deploy a defensive stance and play on the counter-attack in away matches, but at home, when things were in our favour, we modified this and played attacking football to earn victories."
The sustained progress of the team has left Kim with much food for thought as he set his sights on South Africa 2010. "We will prove that we are not going to the World Cup just to make up the numbers," he declared. "We are confident about competing against the best teams in the world."
Kim's sticking to his game plan was lauded by Hong Hyon-Chol, who coached the team for four years from 1990 and is currently the director of the country's leading club, April 25. "While the global trend is attacking football, we stick to our largely defensively strategy with the 5-4-1 formation, mainly because this is the tactic which best suits our players," he explained.
Hong believes the squad's meticulous preparation was also central to their qualification. "Usually, because we are physically smaller than the likes of Iranian and Saudi players, we struggle against the west Asian sides. But this time we spent a lot of time fitness training, and our players benefited enough to compensate for their physical inferiority."
However, the legendary Pak Doo-Ik, who figured prominently in Korea DPR's success at England 1966, scoring the only goal against Italy which took them into the last eight, remained skeptical. "Despite reaching the World Cup, we are still far from becoming a world-class team," the 73-year-old warned. "We will have our work cut out and there are still huge areas in which to improve, including in defence, creating chances and putting them away."