COLOMBO: Free-kick specialist Pak Song-chol and vibrant mid-fielder Ryang Yong-gi might have enhanced their chances of appearing in this summer’s FIFA World Cup if DPR Korea coach Jo Tong-sop’s conviction that “five or six” players in the squad playing at the AFC Challenge Cup in Colombo could be bound for South Africa.
“There are five or six players we are looking at for the World Cup and from what I have seen of them at this tournament, they have a very good chance of making our World Cup squad,” said Jo who is also an assistant coach with the DPR Korea senior national side.
Jo refused to reveal the names of the World Cup probables, but he has consistently praised the efforts of Pak and Ryang, who have been two of the more outstanding players in the team which has breezed into the final of the AFC Challenge Cup against Turkmenistan on February 27.
Pak, 22, has produced superlative performances regularly. His playmaking abilities coupled with his precision dead ball capability has made him one of the front runners for the MVP title at this eight-team tournament.
Pak’s stunning 30-yard free kick against Myanmar – a powerful drive after the ball had been rolled into his path and quite unlike the curling effort that stymied the Indian wall – was applauded by Jo.
Ryang, meanwhile, has been one of the most industrious players on the park and has been at the centre of DPR Korea’s creative build-ups which has left opponents foxed. His two goals against India was outstanding and like Pak, he has been one of the hubs of the team.
Other candidates who could fall into Jo’s reckoning could include defenders Pak Yong-jin and Ri Kwang-hyok and forward Choe Chol-man.
“All these players (on my radar) have done well. They all have an opportunity to go for the World Cup,” Jo said.
DPR Korea has two squads in training right now for the World Cup. One is the team in Asia and being represented at the AFC Challenge Cup. The other is in Europe. The World Cup squad is expected to be named in April.
As far as the AFC Challenge Cup is concerned DPR Korea has been in a class of its own. They have demolished all teams – Kyrgyzstan 4-0, India 3-0, and Myanmar 5-0. The only team to give them a semblance of a fight was Turkmenistan who in the first group game held on to a 1-1 draw.
“That was our first match in Colombo. We had just arrived after a long flight and we were tired and not used to the hot and humid conditions here. But now we have acclimatised. It will be a different result in the final,” promised Jo.