Clean sheets lift Korea DPR

Despite not having made a great impact on the international stage of late, Korea DPR have shown recently that no side should underestimate them. They were the only team to remain undefeated in Asia's third round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and the reward for their impressive campaign was an enviable 24-place rise in this month's FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, in which they now stand at 94th in the world and 12th in Asia.

The East Asians' tremendous climb up the world pecking order can be attributed to their admirable performances in June, when they picked up eight points from four games to round off their third round campaign for South Africa 2010.

Under coach Kim Jong Hun, the 1966 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists embarked upon their June endeavours with considerable confidence, after clinching a first-up win against Jordan on 6 February before holding their powerful southern neighbours to a goalless draw in March.

And so to June: the "summer campaign" began with a double-header against Group 3 outsiders Turkmenistan. Playing the first leg away in Ashgabat, coach Kim's charges managed to hold the Central Asians at bay for a 0-0 draw. But five days later in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Stadium, Choe Kum Chol scored a second-half goal to give the Koreans a precious three points.

A week later came Matchday 5, and Serbia-based forward Hong Yong Jo struck in either half to steer Korea DPR to a 2-0 success over Jordan, a result which assured their progression from the section alongside Korea Republic, who defeated Turkmenistan 3-1 on the same day.

With qualifying missions already completed, the two Korean peninsula neighbours played out a goalless draw in the final game.

Unbreachable
Throughout the qualifying campaign Korea DPR, whose last-eight finish at England 1966 stood as the best Asian achievement at a world finals for 36 years, were indomitable in defence.

Despite scoring only four times in their six third round games, they conceded not a single goal during the campaign; no opponents, not even the strongly favored Korea Republic, succeeded in breaching their rearguard.

The draw for the final qualifying round pits Kim's side against some familiar rivals, including Korea Republic, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, at whose expense they progressed to the last qualifying round for Germany 2006 four years ago.

To prepare for their opening game against hosts UAE on 6 September, Kim's squad will attend a one-week training camp in Uzbekistan, during which they will play a warm-up match against the Central Asians on 29 August. Determined to secure their second FIFA World Cup appearance, coach Kim believes the team's never-say-die spirit will carry them all the way through.

"We will give everything we have until the final minute in order to qualify for the World Cup," he vowed.