09 April 2017

RACE TO REACH JORDAN 2018 HEATING UP IN GROUP B

Pyongyang: The race to claim a place amongst Asia’s elite appears to be well and truly heating up in Pyongyang as the AFC Women’s Asia Cup Jordan 2018 Group B qualifying campaign reaches its final stretch.
Following their failure to secure the all-important three points against rivals Korea Republic in Friday’s historic encounter, DPR Korea coach Kim Kwang-min has rallied his charges to refocus as they prepare for a top-of-the-table clash against an Uzbekistan side which has registered just one point less than the home side.
“It is important for us to get a good start. When you look at the last match, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to set an example, to keep our focus, early on in the game. They (Uzbekistan) still have a chance to qualify so they will want to get the victory, but we need to rely on our abilities and more importantly, mentally, we need to remain focus to get the job done throughout the 90 minutes,” Kim said.

DPR Korea’s opponents on Sunday have been growing in confidence after registering two opening victories, their most recent of which – a 7-1 thumping of India – helped them cement second place in the group standings.
Undeterred by the prospect of facing the two best ranked teams – DPR Korea and Korea Republic – in his remaining two matches, Uzbekistan coach Babakulov Sherali acknowledges that his troops will need to deploy a different approach against the hosts.
“Yes, you will see a totally different football match against DPR Korea. Of course, we have our main goal and we need to reach this goal. We want to qualify for Jordan, so for us the two next matches will be crucial,” explained Sherali.
“DPR Korea play 4-4-2. They are very well organised and disciplined. But we have been studying them very closely. We have been watching videos of them, back home and from the matches here, so we are well prepared.”
When quizzed if his side will adopt a more defensive approach, the 33-year-old replied: “I want to emphasise that we play football, real football; we don’t believe in time-wasting or play-acting, we will play real football to show the DPR Korea team and their fans what Uzbekistan football is about.”
In the other Group B match, Korea Republic head coach Yoon Deok-yeo has called on his players to put their celebrations on hold, insisting that there is still plenty of work ahead as he looks to mastermind a dominant victory over Hong Kong to strengthen their chances of qualification.
“Hong Kong showed their ability against DPR Korea and Uzbekistan. It won’t be an easy game so we need to stick to our game plan. As I said before, every goal in this competition is important so we need to keep our focus to complete the task.
“Getting the goals is our main objective right now for the next two matches. We know the high stakes but we are confident of getting the job done.”
Despite her side now nnot being able to qualify, Hong Kong coach Chan Shuk Chi wants her side to relish the opportunity of playing world-class opponents.   
“It won’t be an easy match. Korea Republic are a very organised team with many professionals, playing in either local or overseas leagues. As a unit, they are creative and aggressive and individually their players have excellent technique. 
“I have seen an improvement in our players with each match, and I want to see us continue developing on Sunday. We can only improve if we play against the better teams and Korea Republic are one of the best teams in the world.”
Photos: DPR Korea Football Association

http://www.the-afc.com/womens-asian-cup-2018/race-to-reach-jordan-2018-heating-up-in-group-b


CAPACITY CROWD WITNESSES HISTORIC DPR KOREA - KOREA REPUBLIC MATCH



Pyongyang: A capacity 42,500 fans filled the Kim Il Sung Stadium, in Pyongyang on Friday for the historic 1-1 draw between DPR Korea and Korea Republic in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 Group B qualifier.
While matches between the two neighbouring countries tend to generate world-wide interest, this was the first time in history the two women sides played in DPR Korea. Adding to the mix, the Group B tie was made even more significant with a coveted place among Asia’s elite in the Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 on the line.
“There was no way I was going to miss this match. For us here in DPR Korea, this was one of the biggest matches in our history,” said 72-year-old, Kim-ho, a lifelong DPR Korea fan.
“I have three great memories of DPR Korea football. The first was the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the other was the 2010 FIFA World Cup when our men’s team qualified, and the last was when our women’s team beat Korea Republic in the East Asian Games in 2013. Tonight may not be a World Cup, it is just a qualifier for the Asian Cup, but I have another great memory right here in Pyongyang.”
The Local Organising Committee (LOC), formed largely by DPR Korea Football Association administrators, government officials, local specialists and volunteers, were pleased with the organisation of the high-profile match. Yu Yong-mok, Local General Coordinator for the Group B qualifiers attributed the LOC’s success to the close integration of efforts between the various standing committees, which include security, match operations and spectator management.
“We wanted to host the qualifiers for two reasons. Firstly, the people in our country love their football so these qualifiers give them an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of national team. Secondly, we want to continue to develop football in our country and the qualifiers help to strengthen our national team.
“Working together, I believe that we can be proud with how we have managed the qualifiers so far, but as in all things, I believe we will keep improving as the competition continues.” 
With the just the solitary spot guaranteeing qualification, the media frenzy was also evident in the Korea Republic, with nearly a dozen media representatives flying across the border to report on the match.
“It has been 27 years since DPR Korea and Korea Republic last played here but back then it was more of friendly match between the men’s team. It is possible that this was the first international or official match between the two countries, said Jeon Hyeonjin, a reporter from Korea Republic news agency Munhwa Ilbo, who travelled to Pyongyang with a photographer.
“Back home in Korea Republic, there is also an ice-hockey women’s match taking place against DPR Korea so it is fitting that this match is taking place here.”
There is little doubt the rivalry between the two sides added to the sheer quality and intensity over the 90 minutes, but there was also an immense sense of respect shared between the two teams as they exchanged pleasantries and handshakes shortly after the final whistle.
Although the fixture ended in a stalemate, the historic encounter will forever be remembered as the night when the world was spellbound by the women’s game in Asia, made possible by the ever-improving platform the AFC’s competitions presents to prepare the continent’s best to grace the biggest stages.  
Photo: DPR Korea Football Association

http://www.the-afc.com/womens-asian-cup-2018/capacity-crowd-witnesses-historic-dpr-korea-korea-republic-match

03 April 2017

AFC Women's Asian Cup qualifiers : DPR Korea 8-0 India











AFC WOMEN'S ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS MD1: GROUP B PREVIEW

Pyongyang: With a trophy cabinet few in the continent can match, Group B hosts DPR Korea enter their opening AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 qualifier against India on Monday as favourites, but head coach Kim Kwang-min has cautioned his charges to approach the South Asians with the same focus and discipline that has seen his side emerge as a dominant force on the world stage.
“It is very important for us to have a good start when we play India. We must admit that we have little information about them so it is crucial to prepare well and play at our best. We have set our sights on qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 in France and we need a good result against India to have the assurance that we can succeed in this qualifying campaign," said Kim. 
Meanwhile, India’s head coach Sajid Yousuf Dar is conscientious of the threat posed by DPR Korea and is hoping his side’s team spirit will transform their stellar regional form into greater success on the continental stage in Pyongyang. 
“It will be an uphill battle to face the hosts in the first match. They are one of the best teams in Asia and they are very good going forward and equally sound at the back," declared the former All India Football Federation  (AIFF) youth coach, who guided India’s women’s side to gold at the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women's Championship and the South Asian Games last year.
“It will be a challenge for our players, but we are working hard and improving on the technical aspects of our game to overcome the challenge. On video, DPR Korea have a solid defence and a fluent attack. We aim to strengthen our ability to play as a team and focus less on individual skill to give them a good fight,” added the 42-year-old Kashmiri native. 
In the other Group B match, Hong Kong will take on Uzbekistan with both teams looking to make a strong start in a formidable group which also includes heavyweights Korea Republic. Neither side has appeared in the finals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup since the introduction of the qualifiers phase in 2006, but Hong Kong coach Chan Shuk Chi believes her side can gain an early advantage after carefully studying her opponents. 
“Uzbekistan are physically a very strong side. They are especially aggressive in pressing when we have the ball so we will have to be compact with our approach, particularly in defence and look to break on the counter attack,” explained coach Chan who recalled vividly their previous encounter against Uzbekistan in the qualifiers for the 2014 Rio Olympics.
“They deploy a very direct style by playing long balls and we will try to close them down quickly to prevent any long passes behind our back line.”
Equally eager to establish a quick foothold in the group, Uzbekistan coach Babakulov Sherali is adamant his side is well positioned to collect all three points against his East Asians opponents. “Hong Kong are a team we know very well. We have played many times over the years from the age-group levels to the senior team. We have won almost all our previous encounters with them. Tomorrow’s match is no different, we are very confident we can do well against them,” said the 33-year-old. 
Matchday One
April 3, 2017, Monday
Group B
DPR Korea v India

Kick-off: 1500hrs
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang
Hong Kong v Uzbekistan
Kick-off: 1800hrs
Venue: Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang

http://www.the-afc.com/womens-asian-cup-2018/afc-womens-asian-cup-qualifiers-md1-group-b-preview

17 March 2017

AFC U-23 CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 HOPEFULS LEARN THEIR OPPONENTS



uala Lumpur: Forty AFC U-23 Championship China 2018 hopefuls discovered their qualifying opponents during the stage's official draw at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday.
The ten group winners and five best second-placed teams among all the groups will advance to the finals. The qualifiers will take place from July 19 to 23, 2017 in the respective host countries which are Kyrgyz Republic, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Myanmar, DPR Korea, Thailand and China PR.
Although directly qualified as the finals host, China PR have expressed interest to participate in the qualifying stage. Therefore, if China PR finish top of their group or finish among the five best second-placed teams, the next (sixth) second-placed team will qualify to the final stage of the competition in January, 2018.
WEST Zone (West + South + Central)
Group A
A1. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
A2. OMAN
A3. KYRGYZ REPUBLIC (host)
A4. SRI LANKA
Group B
B1. IRAQ
B2. SAUDI ARABIA (host)
B3. BAHRAIN
B4. AFGHANISTAN
Group C
C1. QATAR (host)
C2. SYRIA
C3. INDIA
C4. TURKMENISTAN
Group D
D1. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (host)
D2. UZBEKISTAN
D3. LEBANON
D4. NEPAL
Group E
E1. JORDAN
E2. TAJIKISTAN
E3. PALESTINE (host)
E4. BANGLADESH
EAST Zone (East + ASEAN)
Group F
F1. AUSTRALIA
F2. MYANMAR (host)
F3. SINGAPORE
F4. BRUNEI DARUSSALAM
Group G
G1. DPR KOREA (host)
G2. LAOS
G3. CHINESE TAIPEI
G4. HONG KONG
Group H
H1. THAILAND (host)
H2. INDONESIA
H3. MALAYSIA
H4. MONGOLIA
Group I
I1. KOREA REPUBLIC
I2. VIETNAM (host)
I3. TIMOR-LESTE
I4. MACAU
Group J
J1. JAPAN
J2. CHINA PR (host)
J3. CAMBODIA
J4. PHILIPPINES

DPR KOREA – MALAYSIA AFC ASIAN CUP QUALIFIER TO TAKE PLACE ON JUNE 8

Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Wednesday at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur that the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Final Qualifying Round match between DPR Korea and Malaysia, originally scheduled for March 28, 2017 in Pyongyang, will now take place on June 8, 2017. 
Following the AFC Competitions Committee’s decision to postpone the match on March 10, the AFC has since written to DPR Korea Football Association on March 13 asking it to nominate a neutral venue by April 14, in the event the bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries have not returned to normal.
Should the match be played in a neutral venue, the match between Malaysia and DPR Korea scheduled for November 14, 2017 in Malaysia will also be played at a neutral venue to preserve sporting values and the spirit of fair play. 
AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John presented the AFC’s match competition principles and the decision-making process, which led to the postponement of the match. 
He said: “The match has now been confirmed to take place on June 8, 2017, taking into consideration that the first match must be played before the second match day on June 13, 2017 to fulfil the match sequence principle, and the available FIFA Match Days in the AFC Calendar of Competitions 2017.”

http://www.the-afc.com/media-releases/dpr-korea-%E2%80%93-malaysia-afc-asian-cup-qualifier-to-take-place-on-june-8

15 March 2017

AFC POSTPONES DPR KOREA AND MALAYSIA MATCH


Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Competitions Committee have on Friday decided to postpone the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Final Round Qualifier between DPR Korea and Malaysia.
The match was scheduled to be played in the DPR Korea capital Pyongyang on March 28, 2017 but the AFC Competitions Committee have taken the decision to postpone the tie after escalating diplomatic tension between the Governments of DPR Korea and Malaysia.
A new date for the game will be announced in due course.

14 March 2017

AFC CUP 2017 - GROUP I: 4.25 SC 6-0 ERCHIM FC

Pyongyang: In the battle of the AFC Cup debutants visitors Erchim FC were hit for six as 4.25 SC striker Kim Yu-song netted five goals in a 6-0 rout at May Day Stadium on Tuesday.
Four of Kim’s goals came in the first half in a little over 30 minutes as the DPR Korea-side opened Group I in explosive fashion with the Mongolian Premier League champions struggling to cope in their 2017 AFC Cup opener.
Kim added his and 4.25’s fifth just before the hour mark, and then substitute Om Chol-song added the final goal of the night with 13 minutes remaining as the DPR Koreans enjoyed a fine start to life in the continental competition.

http://www.the-afc.com/afc-cup-2017/match-report/competition/821/season/2017/matchid/906696

05 February 2017

AFC Cup : Two DPR Korea Teams in AFC Cup group stage

Schedule & Results:
14-03-2017 16:00
16:00
    
4.25 SC (PRK)ERCHIM FC (MNG)
Venue: May Day Stadium, Pyongyang

04-04-2017 14:00
14:00
    
ERCHIM FC (MNG)KIGWANCHA SC (PRK)
Venue: Football Centre MFF, Ulaanbaatar

18-04-2017 16:00
16:00
    
4.25 SC (PRK)KIGWANCHA SC (PRK)
Venue: May Day Stadium, Pyongyang

03-05-2017 15:00
15:00
    
KIGWANCHA SC (PRK)4.25 SC (PRK)
Venue: Kim II Sung Stadium, Pyongyang

17-05-2017 14:00
14:00
    
ERCHIM FC (MNG)4.25 SC (PRK)
Venue: Football Centre MFF, Ulaanbaatar

31-05-2017 15:00
15:00
    
KIGWANCHA SC (PRK)ERCHIM FC (MNG)
Venue: Kim II Sung Stadium, Pyongyang

DPR KOREA AND THE DOMINO EFFECT




Kuala Lumpur: Youth teams from DPR Korea dominated the FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups 2016 and secured both titles. What is the secret of their success?
Sibling rivalry has been going on since the dawn of time: if one child receives a present, the other immediately wants one, too. If Johnny becomes a sprint champion, his sister will try to emulate that success in another field. The fight for recognition drives brothers and sisters both on, and in football it is no different. If a club’s youth team wins the league, this will serve as an incentive to the next team up the age ladder to go one better. The more senior team will certainly not want to be outdone by their juniors.
This was certainly the case when DPR Korea took to the field at the start of the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. Just weeks before, their “little sisters” had won the U-17 title in Jordan and won many admirers with their attacking style. At the first major women’s tournament to be held in an Arab country, the midfielders pushed forward into space and the wide players deployed in attacks. Constant movement without the ball was much in evidence, and spectators were also impressed by the passes played in behind the opposition’s defence.
The bar was thus set high for the U-20 team in Papua New Guinea, with ambitions and expectations to match. But coach Hwang Yong-bong’s side also possessed mental strength and dished up some refreshingly entertaining football, as their goal tally of 21 attests. As captain Choe Sol-gyong hoisted the trophy aloft, her coach spoke jubilantly of a “historic success”.
Some 6,000 kilometres away, as the crow flies, from Port Moresby, the scene of this triumph, the youth teams’ achievements have been celebrated but taken no one by surprise, as football development has been a high priority in DPR Korea in recent years. The strategies pursued at Pyongyang’s international football academy are aimed at bringing together all of DPR Korea's talents and developing them in accordance with global standards.
Absorbing external knowledge
The academy is located on the idyllic island of Rungna on the Taedong River, which rises in the Rangrim Mountains and flows into the Yellow Sea some 400 kilometres away. In contrast to the tranquil surroundings, plenty of effort is expended inside the centre, where some 200 youngsters aged between nine and 14 – of whom 40 percent are girls – have trained since it opened in 2013. They come from various provinces in the country and sleep at the academy, where they also attend school lessons, although it goes without saying that football is the main reason that they are there. Success on the pitch is all that matters to them, but they must constantly work at their game, as every year, ten percent of the players are shown the door.
Although DPR Korea has had football academies for a number of years, the Pyongyang International Football School is the first academy to align itself with the game as it is played abroad and the trends emerging globally. It invites international experts to run courses, while players are loaned to club academies in Spain and Italy, where they can become familiar with European training methods and pass on their newly acquired knowledge to their fellow players and coaches.

On schedule
The original plan was for the U-17 and U-20 teams to be in the top three of the world by 2018, but going by recent exploits, that aim seems to have been already achieved.
However, another of the plan’s objectives is for the senior international side to become a member of the world’s elite. The team has undergone some difficulties in recent years, with several of its players failing doping tests at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, leading to an outright ban on participation in the 2015 tournament in Canada. In addition, the league continues to stagnate, and international matches have become something of a rarity.
The successes of the youth teams have given a boost to the “big sisters” as they endeavour to reach their goals. “I’m delighted with our victory, but we can’t stop here. We have to keep on working to win more titles,” said Hwang Yong-bong (pictured above) in Papua New Guinea, looking ahead.
The same approach is being taken in Pyongyang, where the artificial turf seems to be greener than before and the players are leaping even higher over the cones in training. After all, success breeds success, or so the saying goes.
But the hard work starts here, spurred on no doubt by sibling rivalry. How did Irving Berlin put it? “Anything you can do, I can do better...”
Sources: FIFA 1904, FIFA/Getty Images

http://www.the-afc.com/dpr-korea/dpr-korea-and-the-domino-effect

DRAW FOR FINAL ROUND OF AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019 QUALIFIERS CONCLUDED


Abu Dhabi: The remaining 24 teams vying for a spot at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 discovered their opponents for the final round of qualifying at an official draw for the competition’s latest stage on Monday.
The Teams
Jordan, Oman, Philippines, Bahrain, Kyrgyz Republic, DPR Korea, India, Palestine, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Chinese Taipei, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Nepal, Bhutan and Macau.
Draw Result
Group A: A1 Kyrgyz Republic A2 India A3 Myanmar A4 Macau
Group B: B1 DPR Korea B2 Hong Kong B3 Lebanon B4 Malaysia
Group C: C1 Jordan C2 Vietnam C3 Afghanistan C4 Cambodia
Group D: D1 Oman D2 Palestine D3 Maldives D4 Bhutan
Group E: E1 Bahrain E2 Turkmenistan E3 Chinese Taipei E4 Singapore
Group F: F1 Philippines F2 Tajikistan F3 Yemen F4 Nepal
The winners and runners-up from each group - a total of 12 teams - will qualify for the final competition of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
They will be joined by the other 12 teams, which include defending champions Australia, China PR, Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan and hosts United Arab Emirates - who have already qualified to the final competition through the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2.
The qualifiers will begin on March 28, 2017.
Match Schedule (All Groups)
March 28: 1 v 4 & 3 v 2
June 13: 4 v 3 & 2 v 1
September 5: 4 v 2 & 1 v 3
October 10: 2 v 4 & 3 v 1
November 14: 4 v 1 & 2 v 3
March 27, 2018: 1 v 2 & 3 v 4

http://www.the-afc.com/asian-cup-2019/draw-for-final-round-of-afc-asian-cup-uae-2019-qualifiers-concluded
DPR Korea head coach Jörn Andersen
“We are not unhappy, we got a good draw. We’ll meet some good teams so it will be a hard group but I like it. Of course our aim is to qualify for the final round here in the Emirates. I think all the teams have a good chance to qualify, it’s an open group. But we hope we will be one of the best two. We are preparing well and working hard. I have been the coach for eight months now, we work well together and the team has taken a big step ahead. I look forward to the qualifying matches this year.”

TEAMS LEARN AFC WOMEN’S ASIAN CUP JORDAN 2018 QUALIFYING OPPONENTS



Amman: Twenty-one nations learned their opponents for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 qualifiers when the official draw was held in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Saturday.
The Teams
Korea Republic, Thailand, Vietnam, Jordan, Myanmar, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bahrain, Islamic Republic of Iran, India, Palestine, DPR Korea, Guam, Iraq, Singapore, Syria, Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Draw Result
Group A: A1 Jordan A2 Philippines A3 Bahrain A4 Iraq A5 UAE A6 Tajikistan (hosts)
Group B: B1 Korea Republic B2 Uzbekistan B3 Hong Kong B4 India B5 DPR Korea (hosts) 
Group C: C1 Thailand C2 Chinese Taipei C3 Lebanon C4 Palestine (hosts) C5 Guam
Group D: D1 Vietnam (hosts) D2 Myanmar D3 IR Iran D4 Syria D5 Singapore
The three highest-ranked women’s national teams from the last AFC Women’s Asian Cup – Japan, Australia and China PR - received automatic qualification into the eight-team finals. The group winners of each of the four qualifying groups will qualify for the finals in Jordan.
Jordan as hosts also received automatic qualification, but they have expressed interest to participate in the qualifiers. Therefore, if case they finish top of their qualifying group, the runner-up team will also advance to the final competition. The qualifiers will kick off on April 3, 2017.
The finals, which will be held from April 7 to 22, 2018, will also serve as the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.
Match Schedule:
Group A
April 3: 
A3 v A1, A4 v A6, A2 v A5
April 5: A1 v A5, A2 v A4, A3 v A6
April 7: A5 v A3, A6 v A2, A1 v A4
April 10: A4 v A5, A6 v A1, A2 v A3
April 12: A5 v A6, A3 v A4, A1 v A2
Groups B through D
April 3: 
BCD3 v BCD2, BCD5 v BCD4
April 5: BCD4 v BCD1, BCD5 v BCD3
April 7: BCD1 v BCD5, BCD2 v BCD4
April 9: BCD2 v BCD5, BCD3 v BCD1
April 11: BCD4 v BCD3, BCD1 v BCD2

08 January 2017

Outlook bright for North Korean football


By John Duerden
Whatever happens in 2017, North Korea is already smiling when it comes to football. In the final weeks of last year, its women won two World Cups in quick succession.

First came the Under-17 Women's World Cup with the DPRK defeating Japan in the final in Jordan in October. There were more celebrations in Pyongyang on December 3 when the Under-20 team defeated France in Papua New Guinea.

No team in the world has won two world cups in such a short space of time. It is a fine achievement.

The country has always been a power in the women's game without quite hitting the heights it should have. The senior side's best performance at the World Cup was a quarter-final spot in 2007. It has also won three of the last six Asian championships.

The 2019 World Cup, which will be held in France, may just be too early for most of those who starred in the last quarter of 2016 but the stars of the Under-20 win ― including Ri Hyang-sim, Jon So-yon and Kim So-hyang ― will surely be in contention.

One major improvement is the quality of coaching. North Korea has long been able to produce hard-working and technically sound players but, perhaps due to international isolation and a lack of exposure to tactical and coaching trends, it was a struggle to compete at the very top level.

That is changing. Talent is identified at an early age with the best going to schools that are well-versed in the sport.

The best of these can go further. The football federation has started sending talented young men to Spain and Italy to get a taste of the European game, coaching and trends. Of the starting 11 that defeated South Korea in the final of the 2014 Asian Under-16 Championships, six had experience in Europe.

Others who are not so lucky have the fine consolation of a place at the Pyongyang International Football School, opened in 2013 after a, $800,000 grant from the governing body. Foreign coaches are invited from time to time to give players some international exposure.

The academy is home to around 200 students, the best prospects that North Korea has. Almost half are female and they spend plenty of time facing male opponents.

That does not mean that coaches such as Under-20 boss Hwang Yong-bong could not have emerged before, but the present set-up makes it easier to do so. Hwang impressed in Papua New Guinea in leading the team to the big prize, earning accolades from FIFA, especially his tactical flexibility.

"It's a feat that's never been achieved before," said coach Hwang. "I'm delighted with our victory, but we can't stop here. We have to keep on working to win more titles."

Even Korea Football Association officials in Seoul were impressed.

"In the past, North Korea's youth teams did well because of their physical abilities ― they were well prepared, strong and fast," a KFA official, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Korea Times.

"This was less effective at the senior level, as other teams caught up and there was also tactical naivety on behalf of coaches.

"Now though, there are coaches who are able to add strategic knowledge to the team's other strengths. Coach Hwang showed that."

The future looks bright north of the 38th Parallel.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2017/01/661_221634.html