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Coach Kim feels pressure in reclusive North Korea

Coach Kim feels pressure in reclusive North Korea

Even on the less accessible side of the 38th Parallel, North Korea coach Kim Jong Hun is feeling the pressure with the World Cup in South Africa drawing closer.
Despite guiding his unrated and unknown team through a tough qualification stage to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1966, it is still not clear if the well-dressed tactician will be in charge when North Korea opens against Brazil at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 15.
Reports have surfaced in the international media that Kim could be replaced by a high-profile foreigner such as former Real Madrid, Netherlands and South Korea coach Guus Hiddink.
It is a far cry from June 2009 at a silent King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh when North Korea secured a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia to earn a second appearance at the sport's marquee event. It was the second greatest moment in the country's football history following the shocking 1-0 win over Italy at the 1966 World Cup, which sent the team into the quarterfinals.
The celebrations in Riyadh and then Pyongyang were dampened by October's failure to qualify for the 2010 East Asian Championships after a disappointing draw with Hong Kong.
Until that result, Kim had been highly successful with his well-organized and well-manned defense and ability to counterattack swiftly. With the natural work ethic, speed and teamwork of the North Korean players, it was enough to squeeze past Saudi Arabia and Iran in qualifying.
"We are playing football made of speed and good technique combined to the standards of the modern game, which include a great physical strength," Kim said. "Our spirit became the unifying force of the team and inspired the players. These factors were the biggest advantages we enjoyed throughout the qualifying campaign.
"While the global trend is attacking football, we stick to our largely defensively strategy with the 5-4-1 formation, mainly because this is the tactic which best suits our players."
Against weaker teams, North Korea can struggle to take the initiative, but one positive for the 1966 quarterfinalists is that being drawn in the toughest group in South Africa with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast means that North Korea can play its natural game and sit back.
Despite his calm exterior Kim can be bristly. After a controversial 1-0 loss to South Korea in Seoul in April 2009, the coach complained that his players had been poisoned by the hosts and that a header from striker Jong Tae-se had crossed the line before being saved by goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae.
Kim later refused to take questions from surprised local reporters and then stormed out flanked by a posse of suited officials.
His team displays a similar passion and neither coach nor players will give less than 100 percent in South Africa.


Updated : 2021-03-09 12:22 GMT+08:00