Olympics: Preview Notes – North Korea (Group G)

UNLIKE IN THE PROVERB, LIGHTNING DOES STRIKE TWICE — So, should North Korea have another poor outing in an international tournament, this year’s head coach won’t have to think up a new excuse. Although given Korea DPR’s tough draw into a group that includes formidable superpower United States and emerging power France, Sin Ui Gun, who replaced the previous coach, KIM Kwang Min has probably been working on a list of new rationalizations to use in post-game press conferences.

  • How They Qualified: Top two finish in Asian qualifying (2nd place)
  • FIFA Rank: #8
  • Previous Olympics: 2008 (group stage)
  • 2011 WWC Performance: Group Stage
  • Key Players: Jon Myong Hwa (midfielder), Ri Ye Gyong (forward)
  • Head Coach: Sin Ui Gun (North Korea)
  • Team Captain: {not sure}
  • Recent Form: W, W, W, T, L, W, L, W
  • Group Finish Probabilities: 1st, 5%; 2nd, 15%; 3rd, 50%; 4th, 30%
  • Medal Chances: Slim

UNHAPPY MATILDAS — After several North Korea players tested positive for prohibited substance, the whole senior Korea DPR WNT was banned from the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but not the Olympics. With North Korea claiming one of two ticket to London, that left the third-placed team in qualifying, Australia none too happy.

FEW USEFUL DETAILS TO GO ON –The Korea DPR federation, like its home nation has hermit tendencies. But, this team did play a number of tune-up friendlies in Europe this year, so some information is available.

RECENT MATCHES — North Korea has played even more tune-up matches than the United States, eight versus six, and have compiled a 5-2-1 record. The two losses were both against #14 Netherlands. Korea DPR also has two wins against Romania with scorelines of 5:1 and 4:2. Fellow Group G squad France also played Romania, winning 6:0.

GROUP CHANCES — North Korea begins the tournament against Colombia, in what should be a must-win match for either team if they want to have any hope of advancing out of the group. Korea DPR probably has too much class to lose against Colombia, but a draw is definitely not out of the question. If North Korea does get a win, then to have a good chance of making a wild card spot, it will need to claim at least a draw from one or both of its last two opponents. Which, unfortunately for this young Asian squad, are France and the United States.

PROBABLE STARTERS? GOOD QUESTION — North Korea played eight tune-ups in Europe, but line-ups are only available for only half of them. Of those eight matches, a pair  was played on consecutive days and another three matches were played in four days, so due to rest and recuperation needs, the variation in the line-ups makes discerning a consistent group of starters quite difficult. And, this is in addition to Korea DPR having a new coach, a lot of new players, and apparently a new formation: a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-4-2.

North Korea’s final tune-up was a closed-door yet fully reported match versus Wales. Oddly, the team’s starting line-up included two alternates. But, there has been no announcements about those alternates replacing any of the official players.

The line-up, sorted by position:

  • Goalkeeper: Jo Yun Mi (#1)
  • Defenders: Kim Nam Hui (#2), Pong Son Hwa (#14), Ri Nam Sil (#15)
  • Midfielders: Kim Chung Sim (#11), Kim Un Hyang (#12), O Hui Sun  (#13), Yu Jong Im (#19)
  • Forwards: Kim Song Hui (#16), Kwon Song Hwa (#17), Choe Yong Sim (#20)

Not in the line-up was the team’s most veteran player, Jon Myong Hwa (#8), a 25 year-old midfielder, and forward Ri Ye Gyong who is the team’s leading scorer.

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