Having previously appeared only once at the World Cup in 1966, North Korea's squad go into the 2010 version as one of the great unknowns of world football. Permanently shrouded in secrecy because of the protective nature of a totalitarian regime at home, their distrust of the media, added to defensive football, means they will have to work hard to win over new fans.
Not that Kim Jong-hun's team care. National pride is the most important thing of all with goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk saying he felt like he was "defending the gateway to my motherland" after the 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia that booked the team's place in South Africa. Drawn in the 'Group of Death' against Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal their stay in Africa is likely to be short-lived, especially as they are the lowest ranked team in the competition.
Aim: The North Koreans might well be happy with a goal, let alone win a point at this World Cup. They will rely on ultra-defensive tactics to stifle their opponents and hope to surprise them on the counter-attack.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
RI MYONG-GUK Goalkeeper Ri missed just one of their 16 qualifying matches and kept a phenomenal 10 clean sheets. In all, he conceded only six goals in the 15 games he appeared in. He is not the most commanding of keepers when dealing with high balls, but he relies on sharp reflexes and is an good shot-stopper. Likes to play in tracksuit bottoms.
AN YONG-HAK An was born in Japan, but does not hold a Japanese passport and considers himself 100% Korean. The 31-year-old defensive midfielder plays his club football in Japan with Omiya Ardija. After a unhappy welcoming to the team when he was younger he now says they are more "like a family".
JONG TAE-SE A bustling attacker in the Wayne Rooney mould, Jong only scored once in 12 qualifying matches, although he managed to net twice in a 2-2 draw against Greece recently. Has better form for his club side in Japan, Kawasaki Frontale, scoring seven goals in 13 matches this season
KIM JONG-HUN Kim based North Korea's qualification on defence, defence, and more defence. He admits: "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." There have been reports that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il has given Kim Jong-hun advice on how to manage his team and the coach has not denied this.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
They need your support! The North Korean public look set to miss out on watching their team in action on TV due to a dispute with South Korea, who provide their match pictures from South Africa. Not only that, despite receiving an allocation of over 17,000 tickets from Fifa, none of their fans will fly to South Africa to cheer on their team due to rules imposed by their ruler Kim Jong-il.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
North Korea's World Cup qualifying highlights
W 4-1 Mongolia (A) W 5-1 Mongolia (H) W 1-0 Jordan (A) D 0-0 South Korea (H) D 0-0 Turkmenistan (A) W 1-0 Turkmenistan (H) W 2-0 Jordan (H) D 0-0 South Korea (A) W 2-1 UAE (A) D 1-1 South Korea (H) L 2-1 Iran (A) W 1-0 Saudi Arabia (A) W 2-0 UAE (H) L 1-0 South Korea (A) D 0-0 Iran (H) D 0-0 Saudi Arabia (A) Finished second in Group B of Asia (AFC) qualifying
WORLD CUP BEST
1966: North Korea were the surprise package of the tournament, shocking Italy at Middlesbrough's Ayresome Park ground en route to the quarter-finals, where they suffered an agonising 5-3 defeat by Portugal despite taking a 3-0 lead.
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