By Tom Mallows:
So they have done it, no not tested nuclear weapons (though they have done that as well but that’s not what I’m talking about), North Korea have qualified for their first World Cup since 1966.
Ironically that tournament was probably the last time the country was seen in a positive light by much of the Western world. They were plucky underdogs who came away with a shock 1-0 win over Italy at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park before surging into a 3-0 half time lead over Eusebio’s Portugal at Goodison Park, only to collapse in the second and lose 5-3.
But since then it has been tales of domestic oppression, nuclear weapons and one of George Bush’s famous ‘axis of evil’.
Unfortunately football and politics don’t really mix, and as much as the North Korean side will look to concentrate on their football at the tournament in South Africa next year, the political undertones from both sides will always bubble to the surface – can you imagine if the USA are drawn in their group? Football betting on that one would be interesting!
The qualification has all the hallmarks of one achieved through the influence of a dictator. They train like a military platoon, running themselves into the ground. Because of that they will become one of the fittest teams at the tournament with a high stamina rate, constantly hustling and harrying away at the opposition. This sort of high tempo game is usually only effective for certain parts of games before you become worn out. However the military training has allowed the team to play this type of game for the full 90, and it has reaped dividends.