No one is more adamant of this than on-form striker Jong Tae-Se. The Kawasaki Frontale hot-shot has been the most dominant voice emanating from the elusive from Korea DPR camp, and has again re-affirmed that the Chomilla are not intent on purely making up the numbers. “We don’t want to leave the tournament just with experience; we want to obtain all we can get in terms of goals and points when we go home” explained Jong. He then made the bold prediction that “In our group, it will be Brazil and North Korea who will advance.”
Some may laugh at the words of Jong, however his confidence is admirable given the calibre of teams Korea DPR face in their group. The ‘People’s Rooney’ is in fact on course to maintain his equally bold claim that he will score a goal in every group game, after netting in Sunday’s controversy-laden 3-1 defeat against Nigeria – the Chomilla’s last friendly before their World Cup opener against Brazil on Tuesday. That makes it three goals in the last two games for Jong, and he is all too aware of the growing responsibility that is being placed on his shoulders. The striker explained: “At Kawasaki, every time we attack, there are five or six players involved in the attack. Other players can help and I can help them by making space for them and sacrificing myself in order to help them score. With the North Korean national team, it is different. I have to do it myself, along with Hong Yong-jo.”
It is interesting to note that Jong is technically a foreigner having been born in Japan to South Korean parents. It was only after gaining a work permit that he was able to realise his dream of playing for North Korea – a dream first conjured at University in Tokyo after watching the Chomilla lose 2-1 to South Korea during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers. Shortly after making his debut at full international level, Jong rapidly became the name on everyone’s lips, north and south of the border. Journalists were clambering over one and other – offers were being made to make documentaries on his life. However, he refused to let the sudden media circus surrounding him get in the way of qualifying for South Africa 2010. At the start of their journey, Jong rated the chances of Korea DPR qualifying as fair, maintaining that: “North Korean players are physically strong, fast and tough in the tackle. It’d be a real waste if we didn’t make the most of these attributes. I think we have a reasonable chance if we play to the best of our abilities. I’ll be in the thick of it demanding this from my team-mates, even if some people may feel I’m shouting too much.”
Now they have arrived, and the Chomilla are still carrying the qualities Jong talked of at the beginning of the qualifying campaign. Although still being written off by many, North Korea are determined to ‘amaze the world’ with their exploits at this year’s tournament. With a miserly defence, hard-working midfield and the flair and devastating finishing of Jong in attack, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea pack more tools than many are perhaps aware of – tools that could help them deliver their lavish promises.