01 August 2011

N.Korea's Jong rues tough World Cup draw

North Korea striker Jong Tae-Se has questioned his side's lowly standing in the FIFA rankings after they were given a tough qualifying draw for the 2014 World Cup.

North Korea, who made a winless exit from South Africa 2010, were grouped with four-time Asian champions Japan, Syria and 2011 Asian Cup semi-finalists Uzbekistan at the draw in Rio de Janeiro.

Jong said he was confident North Korea would progress from the group along with Japan, but complained the communist state's 115th place in the FIFA rankings was "obviously" unreasonable.

"Isn't it strange that we always end up 100 percent in a group of death in any (major) tournament?" the 27-year-old, who was born and bred in Japan, wrote on his blog.

Jong moved to Germany's VfL Bochum from J-League side Kawasaki Frontale after last year's World Cup, where North Korea faced five-time champions Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast in the group stage.

The striker, nicknamed the "People's Rooney" for his combative style, likened to the England and Manchester United striker, said the tough 2014 draw was due to North Korea's low FIFA ranking.

This left them in the weakest pot of teams, which also included Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Lebanon.

"Normally, Japan, Uzbekistan and Syria are joined by a relatively weaker team from somewhere. But why do North Korea come in there?" he wrote.

"I don't say that the FIFA rankings can't be depended upon," wrote the outspoken Jong. "But it is obviously not a reasonable place (for North Korea) in terms of potential."

"I personally believe on my own that the biggest reason is that we as a socialist country cannot pay money to organise warm-up matches on international 'A' match days."

At the Asian Cup in January, North Korea bowed out at the group stage after losing to holders Iraq and former three-time champions Iran and drawing with the United Arab Emirates.

Jong has scored 15 goals in 28 international matches since his debut for North Korea in 2007.

He failed to find the net in South Africa but impressed by setting up the goal in the 2-1 defeat to Brazil. The crew-cut striker also earned plenty of attention when he sobbed uncontrollably during the national anthem before the Brazil game.

©2011 AFP

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