North Korea Camp Focus – Kim Jong-Hun reveals provisional Korea DPR squad

The announcement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup in South Africa was never going to spring many surprises, mainly because few of the players will be familiar to football followers outside the Asian nation.

The squad is dominated by home-based players with only five plying their trade outside North Korea. It is no surprise that Captain and arguably their most dangerous player, Hong Yong-Jo, is one of the mere two North Koreans who play in Europe. The FC Rostov striker has amassed 11 goals in 38 international appearances, and while actually not particularly prolific with Russian Premier League outfit Rostov, of all the squad members he possesses the most experience of playing against high level opposition.

The squad also interestingly contains two Japan born players, one of which is Ahn Yong-Hak, a 31-year-old midfielder who possesses a range of experience plying his trade in South Korea and now the J-League in Japan. The other is striker Jong Tae-Se, who has been dubbed Asia’s answer to Wayne Rooney. The 26-year-old forward insists: “I will shoot and finish whenever I get a pass,” and boasts a decent record to back up this audacity with 12 goals in 20 matches for North Korea to date. He went on to state that: “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 also has a solid scoring record for J-League club Kawasaki Frontale, with 46 goals in 111 appearances. If partnered in attack with Hong Yong-Jo for the finals, there should be enough between the two front men to cause a degree of concern for their big-name group opponents.

The North Korean squad possesses high levels of fitness and a military-like work ethic which is so often admirably associated with Asian teams. Guus Hiddink’s South Korea players were lauded for their physical capacities during their stunning run in the World Cup 2002, and North Korea will be looking to make a similar impact – although reaching the Semi Finals like their neighbours did eight years ago would be considered pie in the sky. Nonetheless, Yong-Jo has highlighted the importance of the opening match against Brazil, stating: “Of course, Brazil are a very strong team but if we can get something from that match then it will boost our confidence and morale and put us in good shape to get good results from the following two games.”

Despite Yong-Jo’s positive and optimistic comments, the main focus is most likely to lie on upholding the pride and reputation of the country and its demanding leaders. Knowing this will be the case, the group opponents of Korea DPR are unlikely to take the minnows for granted, and this is exemplified in the words of Ivory Coast International Kafoumba Coulibaly, who warned: “Even North Korea must not be underestimated. We do not really know this team, so it will be even more difficult.”Such is the unknown capacity of this nation which Coulibaly talked of, the more the surprise it will cause, and the more intrigue it will create if North Korea were able to accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of escaping their group of death. The thought of achieving this, and in turn placing themselves on the football map must only spur on this group of fiercely patriotic players. Coach Kim Jong-Hun has highlighted the apparent confidence flowing through the squad, with the outlandish claim that: “The first goal for us is to make it to the quarter-finals. We will put on strong fights against any football powers,” however, before Jong-Hun’s charges can concentrate on attempting this massive feat, the squad will take part in a series of friendly matches designed to prepare them for taking on some of the World’s best players in the likes of Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba.

Having recently proved they can hold their own against experienced opposition by drawing 1-1 with Venezuela and narrowly losing 2-1 against Mexico in March, Korea DPR will take on Paraguay, Ecuador, Greece and Belarus before they kick-off their World Cup campaign against Brazil. Positive results in these fixtures will suggest that North Korea, who already have history in the tournament, could well have the ability to orchestrate a famous and romantic story at this year’s finals.

Provisional 30-man Korea DPR squad

Goalkeepers
Ri Myong-Guk (Pyongyang City)
Ju Kwang-Min (Kigwancha)
Kim Myong-Gil (Amrokgang)

Defenders
Nam Song-Chol (April 25)
Ri Kwang-Chon (April 25)
Pak Chol-Jin (Amrokgang)
Cha Jong-Hyok (Amrokgang)
Ri Jun-Il August (Sobaeksu)
Han Song-Chol (April 25)
Ri Kwang-Hyok (Kyonggongop)
Jon Kwang-Ik (Amrokgang)
Ryang Myong-Il (Wolmido)

Midfielders
Kim Yong-Jun (Chengdu Blades)
Mun In-Guk (April 25)
Pak Nam-Chol (April 25)
Ahn Young-Hak (Omiya Ardija)
Ji Yun-Nam (April 25)
Pak Song-Chol (Rimyongsu)
Ri Chol-Myong (Pyongyang City)
Kim Kuk-Jin (FC Wil)
So Kwang-Chol (Amrokgang)
Jong Su-Hyok (Wolmido)
Kim Kyong-Il (Rimyongsu)
Ri Hung-Ryong (Wolmido)

Strikers
Hong Yong-Jo (c) (Rostov)
Jong Tae-Se (Kawasaki Frontale)
Choe Kum-Chol (Rimyongsu)
An Chol-Hyok (Rimyongsu)
Kim Kum-Il (April 25)
Kim Myong-Won (Amrokgang)
Pak Chol-Min (Rimyongsu)
Jong Chol-Min (Rimyongsu)

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