2010 FIFA Preview: North Korea

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 01: Oh Beom-Seok (R) of South Korea and Jong Tae-Se (C) of North Korea compete for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier match between South Korea and North Korea at Seoul World Cup Stadium on April 1, 2009 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

    NORTH KOREA
    FIFA RANK: 106

    It was 44 years ago when North Korea's soccer team went into the World Cup with low expectations, but then shocked the world when they beat the Italians on their way to an unlikely quarterfinal run.

    The win was the high point in the nation's soccer history and is remembered as one of the greatest upsets of all time in any sport. Well, the North Koreans haven't been back since.

    Its been four long decades away from the World Cup for the squad known as the "Winged Horses," but they are finally back.

    So what will it take for this current squad to duplicate what the '66 team did? A monumental miracle. Think Tyson-Douglas, Pats-Giants Superbowl during New England's 16-0 season, then multiply it by three and you get the idea.

    This squad isn't all that bad, but the draw placed them in this Cup's version of the "Group of Death" -- A murderors row of competition that includes Brazil, Portugal and African powerhouse, Ivory Coast ... in Africa.

    So, what does this particular squad have working for them? For one, they are an unknown. Few countries have an idea of what to expect when they play the Winged Horses because all of their players but one play in the North Korean league, plus little if any information is handed out to the media.

    They also play solid defense. Their non-offensive, ball-control approach sometimes frustrates opponents and keeps them in many matches.

    But, should they fall behind early, especially against the competition they will be facing, it will likely be a long day.

    There's no doubt North Korea belongs here, they fought hard to get the final qualifying spot in Asia over Saudi Arabia and Iran, but they are looking at climbing Mount Everest to get out of this group. Maybe they will have some of that '66 magic with them, but lightning rarely strikes twice -- even 40 years later.

    MATCH SCHEDULE:
    June 15th VS. Brazil - 1:30pm CT (A 44 year wait ends with a match against high powered Brazil, yikes)
    June 21st VS. Portugal - 6:30am CT (Maybe the early start affects the Portugese? Don't see it)
    June 25th VS. Ivory Coast - 9am CT (Ivory Coast may be desperate for points here, not good news for the North)

    NEXT ON THE PITCH: NEW ZEALAND