J-League striker Jong Tae-Se, nicknamed "Asia's Wayne Rooney", will lead a contingent of three Japan-born ethnic Koreans to boost Korea DPR's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ bid.
The two others, also J-League players, Omiya Ardija midfielder Ahn Yong-Hak and Vegalta Sendai midfielder Ryang Yong-Gi, affiliated to Korea DPR's national FA said Tuesday.
Jong of Kawasaki Frontale and Ahn helped the nation qualify for their second world finals - the first in 44 years since they upset Italy with a single-goal victory to reach the quarter-finals in England.
Korea DPR coach Kim Jong-Hun has set his initial target at a quarter-final spot in South Africa although his country is locked in a tough group with five-time champions Brazil, Portugal and Côte d'Ivoire. "We're brimming with confidence. We're much stronger than before," Kim told the Tokyo-based ethnic Korean daily Choson Sinbo before his team, minus the J-Leaguers, left Pyongyang on Saturday for pre-finals training in Europe. "The first goal for us is to make it to the quarter-finals. We will put on strong fights against any football powers," he added.
The coach said North Korea were now equipped with greater physical strength, skill and tactics, thanks to their year-long training that included more than 10 competitions abroad.
We're brimming with confidence. We're much stronger than before.
The Koreans, known for their tight, defensive football, will be taking two other foreign-based players -- Hong Yong-Jo, a striker for Russian Premier League team FC Rostov, and Kim Kuk-Jin, a midfielder for FC Wil of the second-tier Swiss league. Captain Hong Yong-Jo told the daily: "The opening match against Brazil will be crucial. If we beat the favourites, it will be a great boon to our morale. If that happens, anything can happen."
The Korean squad will play warm-up matches against Paraguay in Switzerland on 15 May, Greece on 23 May in Austria, and Nigeria on 6 June in South Africa, according to Choson Sinbo.
The J-League trio will leave for Switzerland on 20 May to join the main squad, the Korean Football Association in Japan said. "I will shoot and finish whenever I get a pass," the 26-year-old Jong told the Choson Sinbo's Japanese-language edition. "Even if I am blocked by defenders for 89 minutes, there may be one minute in which a loose ball comes. I will seize on that chance."
Jong, whose combative style has prompted South Korean media to liken him to the England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, has scored 12 goals in 20 matches for North Korea since his international debut in 2007. He was born in Nagoya as a third-generation Japan-based Korean. "Now I am selected to fight on the stage of dreams which I have chased since my childhood," Jong said in a statement released by his J-League club. "I will fight for the country and for Kawasaki Frontale as well."
Ahn, 31, has played for North Korea since 2002 and even plied his trade in South Korea with K-League clubs Busan and Suwon.
* Please note that squad lists only become official after they have been submitted to and announced by FIFA.