North Koreans keeping to themselves ahead of Asian Cup
By Darren Walton
Ambitious North Korea are hoping to win every game at the Asian Cup - but it's unclear how.
Like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's football team are a somewhat secretive lot.
Ranked 150th in the world, the Chollima only arrived in Australia on Tuesday, giving themselves just three-and-a-half days to acclimatise and prepare for their tournament opener against Uzbekistan at ANZ Stadium.
Refusing to speak to the media, let alone divulge tactics, coach Jo Tong-sop and the 22-man North Korean squad - featuring 18 home-based players - dashed straight to the privacy of their hotel rooms after being greeted in Sydney with a traditional indigenous dance.
Tight-lipped media manager Choe Nam-hyok said he was unsure how much support, if any, the side would receive in Australia, but hoped to pick up a few fans during the tournament.
They can probably bank on some support from the Macarthur under-10s, who made the trek from western Sydney on Tuesday to greet the North Koreans while proudly holding up the country's national flag outside the team hotel.
It is unknown if North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-un will attend any games - or even be in Australia - for the tournament.
Asked about the side's hopes for the Asian Cup, Choe smiled and said: "To win every game."
Such hopes seem fanciful for the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and for a country that last won a match at an Asian Cup in 1980.
North Korea, though, did qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, even if they only managed to score one goal while conceding a dozen in three heavy defeats.
Pooled in Group B alongside China, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, their first-up rivals won't be taking them lightly on Saturday.
Star defender Vitaliy Denisov, who plies his trade for Lokomotiv Moscow, said Uzbekistan, while hoping to go all the way to the final, held great respect for North Korea.
Denisov said the threat of the unknown worried the White Wolves the most.
"We played against them before," he said. "We won two games with the minimum score - 1-0 - and we heard they now have a new coach and new players, many changes in the team."