Home > Football (soccer) > I fell in love last night

I fell in love last night

I fell in love last night … with North Korea’s soccer team.

I know what you are thinking. North Korea? The land of Kim Jong Il? The guy that measures his own mini torpedo by how much international havoc he can wreak? Um, yeah, that’s the one.

I think what Jong Il is doing to his country is horrible, don’t get me wrong. But I’m putting that aside for a few minutes and focusing on the North Korean players that played on the world cup pitch yesterday in South Africa.

Sure you can get on a soap box about communism and human rights — and they are truly valid points — but I want to focus for a hot minute on the players. After all they are human beings with hopes and dreams and aspirations just like you and me. And I was truly reminded of that as I watched them take on mighty Brazil.

North Korea were a revelation. They are ranked 105th in the world by FIFA (mostly because they don’t play enough games to be ranked higher), going against the #1 team in the world and world cup favorites Brazil. The Brazilian team is full of international soccer stars. At every position they are so deep — they could field 3 teams to enter the World Cup and it’s possible that only the top 2 or 3 European teams could beat them. Brazil is that good.

But that’s what is wonderful about sport, isn’t it? When all the comparisons are finished, it’s still up to 11 men against 11 men and the proof is on the pitch. And for over half the game, North Korea gave the Brazilians all they could handle.

North Korea was not in awe. They took the game to the Brazilians. They attacked down the flanks, they attacked down the middle, and they kept possession against possibly the best team in the world. One wonders if European favorite England would do so well against this Brazilian side.

Battle in the middle of the park (Getty Images)

Just looking at the expressions on the Korean’s faces, the tackles they put in, and their sheer determination in the game, I found myself rooting for this most likely of underdogs. Brazil’s first goal had a bit of luck, but there’s no doubting Brazil’s class on their 2nd goal. It was brilliant. During those 15-20 minutes of the 2nd half it appeared like the North Koreans were tiring and Brazil finally got on top of the game.

Encouraging a teammate (Reuters)

But Korea came back and finished the game the strongest. They scored a goal with under 10 minutes left, and appeared the most threatening for a second score. I am so smittenly in love that I now will be rooting for North Korea against Ivory Coast and Portugal. I will take North Korea’s work horses against the Diva Teams Of The Tournament (Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal) every day of the week.

I hope they keep up this same team effort and attacking passion in their other opening round games. Cuz if they do, they won’t have to keep paying Chinese fans to dress up in North Korea gear and come root for them.

Scoring the goal to make it 2-1 and set up a nervy finish for Mighty Brazil

People will start rooting for them on their own.

  1. Jeff
    June 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I thought I’d skip this game, as I have better things to do than watch World Giants beat the crap out of tiny, defenseless minnows. And then, after watching the 0-0 snoozer between Cote D’Ivore & Christiano Ronaldo, I thought I’d get a little Samba on and watch a goal or two…

    And all of a sudden I was hooked. I loved the North Koreans! I loved the work, the technical quality, the quick passing and counter attacks. I never thought they’d get it done, but I hoped against hope that they would give a mighty black eye to Brazil, and inject some life, love, and dreams into the cup. They almost did.

    I’m rooting for them over Portugal. What a bunch of whiny babies led by the whiniest baby of them all. I hope the next ref watches the dive-fest from C. Ronaldo, so he can be ready with the yellow card for ‘simulation’. That’d fix him temporarily. And they sucked.

    I’m rooting for Ivory Coast and North Korea, which will totally trash my bracket predictions. No matter – I picked for the money, but I’m rooting with my heart.

    Brazilian goal wasn’t luck. I’ll never, ever believe that he tried to cross that ball. Toe tipped down and in = I’m hitting that on frame. If he were trying to cross, he’d have had his foot down and out to hook the ball back to teammates. I heard the commentator say that it was lucky – that he had looked over towards the keeper and the six yard box – so it was obvious that that was what he meant to do with the ball. Um, no. That commentator was a Scottish forward who has no teeth, and never thought of hitting a ball like that in his life. I think he actually ‘looked off’ the goalie, and then put his head down and hit the ball in the net. On purpose. Anyway, when it first happened, I thought maybe he had just hit the ball as hard as he could. On replay (LOVE the high-def slow-mo) after replay a person could see him turn his foot down to hit it with the outside of his foot. Smoking goal. Funny that just a few minutes into the game he shot the ball, and it went nowhere. I said out loud – I wonder if this right back is a shooter like Josimar (I did have to Wiki that – I was thinking Jairzinho, but I knew that that wasn’t right…), or if he was just trying to get lucky. I believe I know the answer.

    • June 17, 2010 at 8:23 am

      Yeah, the bit of luck IMHO was that the keeper was so far off his near post. I mean it was a blast on goal and a hope. It was a good strike, and not as good as Josimar’s by any stretch (my two cents on that bit.)

      Anyway, I’m definitely with you on the North Korea love fest. I’m not sold on Ivory Coast yet. They have 6 starters that play in the Premiership and 3 in La Liga, not to mention players in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, and I guess I thought they would show some more attacking verve. It could have been the cageyness of the first game, but I’m betting there is some of Sven Goran Erickson’s natural timidity / don’t-give-anything-away mentality that plagued England for so long. Maybe they’ll come out and play next game. We’ll see.

  2. June 18, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Very well written Eric! enjoyed reading through your piece here.. This game is becoming beyond words for me now. i hate the fact that i missed the upset of Espain and Germany. Saw the french upset and they just had it coming ….

    • June 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      Yeah, I hope Germany can recover from what I feel was an injustice. Too many yellows and a red all in the first half!! That is not right. Hopefully they can advance to the next round, I think they are one of the most attacking and exciting teams to watch so far.

  3. June 20, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Well who knows if we will start having football diplomacy. It might do more to damage the Kims than anything else!

  4. xnoxcluex
    June 20, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Yes! I thought the North Koreans played a great match. That goal they scored was fantastic. At first I thought this game wouldn’t even be worth watching, but I still watched it out of curiosity – North Korea did kick Italy’s butt back in 1966.
    I can’t wait to watch their next game.
    With that said, I just wish North Korea was less brain-washed by Kim Jong-Il. It’s ridiculous.

  5. June 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I am with you guys! I want North Korea to embarrass the Portuguese, and put Cristiano Ronaldo on a flight back home. I can’t believe I’m rooting for Kim Jong Il’s men, but I AM!

  6. June 21, 2010 at 10:57 am

    looks like it (the love affair) ended up as a one-night stand!


    • June 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm

      Man you are so RIGHT about that. It must have been a summer fling for me. Fell out of love as quickly as I fell in love. I had hoped they could win today… man what a horrible performance.

      I just hope that the players don’t lose their feet or that their families don’t get tortured back home for such a poor display.

      Here’s an interesting one: two countries with language ties (uruguay and mexico) just need to draw their game to both advance. Mexico may want to win the group and therefore press the game, but otherwise they could both play it “nice and easy” and both advance.

      Two different teams (portugal & brazil) also with language ties just need to draw in order to advance as well.

      Makes you wonder if there won’t be some well-placed phone calls between the two camps!

  7. June 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    On the plus side it prevents the slim possibility of the North Koreans meeting the South Koreans further down the line. If that one finished all square after extra time it really would revert to a shoot out…

  1. June 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm
  2. June 18, 2010 at 5:36 pm
  3. June 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

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