Prior to the Brazil match, the theme surrounding the elusive Korea DPR camp was again one of optimism, confidence and intensity. Despite the abundance of quality Brazil possess, midfielder An Yong-Hak stated that the one area the Chomilla are superior in to the South Americans is mental strength. “The mentality for victory, strong organisational power and unity in fighting – these attributes are further ahead in us than the Brazil team, I think,” remarked An. The determination of the North Korean players to uphold the dignity of their home nation was again emphasised by An: “We will do our best with strong mentality and organisational power in order to send good news to our country and people.”
The pre-match build up from a North Korean perspective was saturated in optimism. The belief that the Chomilla could perhaps take something from this game was palpable. Driven on by the heroes of 1966 when the tiny Asian nation reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in their only appearance to date, Kim Jong Hun and his troops were certainly talking a good game in the lead up to their clash with the Brazilian titans.
The image of striker Jong Tae-Se in tears during the national anthem was a reminder of what merely just being at the tournament means to these players. It offered somewhat of a human touch amongst the usual patronising drivel on offer from television hosts and commentators alike. It was not long before the North Korean game plan became obvious. Rigid, relentless defending and quick counter attack was on the menu, and it proved to be a hugely successful tactic for the entirety of the first-half. The defending master class, led by the formidable Ri Jun-Il, was testament to the tournament preparation and tight-knit team spirit the Chomilla have displayed in recent months. When an opportunity to tackle a Brazilian presented itself, the player in yellow and blue was hounded on and cleanly dispossessed immediately. When facing surging, sometimes mesmerising runs, the North Korean backline directed each other with militaristic efficiency, making sure every man was tracked. As impressively as the defenders kept Brazil at bay, striker Jong Tae-Se led the line with sublime hold-up play, bringing his fellow players into attack with him in the rare time the Chomilla managed to break forward. His fantastic knock-down to goal scorer Ji Yun-Nam topped an impressive all-round attacking performance, bar one or two instances of arguable greed. If viewers were not aware of the player of genuine quality Korea DPR have in their ranks, they certainly are now.
Since arriving in South Africa, the Korea DPR squad have found themselves in the worldwide eye for the first time. The impression they have given is one of confidence and swagger, however the intensity and military-like approach many may have expected has been kept behind closed doors. The Chomilla have been showing the world they can have fun too, evident in the images of striker Jong Tae-Se with a talking parrot on his shoulder as the squad smilingly strolled through Johannesburg Zoo. Energetic and fun training drills have also been broadcast, with the players laughing and joking, advertising their cemented team spirit. After their performance against Brazil, the Chomilla should have won some more fans – fans who took their dogged yet sporting approach to their hearts. The players did most of the things they promised they would. They were as fast and strong in the tackle as Jong said they would be. The passionate Kawasaki Frontale hit man may not have quite been able to deliver his goal-a-game vow, and in reality they may well not achieve their target of qualifying for the last 16 knockout round. However, the Chomilla have already done more than enough in one single game to ridicule the assumption that the Korea DPR would be tournament cannon-fodder.