For any country, a significant FIFA World Cup™ victory is a lasting legacy from which future generations can take heart. In the case of Korea DPR, their milestone last-eight finish at England 1966 remains a landmark worth celebrating even to this day. During that campaign, Pak Doo Ik scored the only goal against Italy as the Chollima stormed into the quarter-finals in unexpected fashion and 48 years on, the Korea DPR legend was singled out as an inspirational figure by Han Kwang-Song, a promising forward who helped steer his side to victory at the 2014 AFC U-16 Championship in September.
“Mr Pak is my idol,” the youngster told FIFA.com. “He was among the best performers representing our country in the 1966 World Cup. Just as every football player of our team, I am very proud of the past achievement. I really want to emulate that feat by joining our senior national team in the near future and helping our side to the World Cup.”
Sources of inspiration
Pak isn’t, however, the only iconic player from whom Han draws inspiration. Former Brazilian star Ronaldo, as the youngster admits, is his second favourite player. And it is little surprise considering the way he played during the Asian youth campaign. While the entire Korea DPR side impressed through their team-work and spirit, it was Han who stood out for his pace, skills and sharp nose for goals.
The 16-year-old opened his account with a spot-kick in the opening 3-0 rout of Kuwait, and was again on target despite being edged 3-2 by Uzbekistan. He went on to seal their 4-1 triumph against hosts Nepal as they progressed to the knockout stage, before rounding off his campaign with a spectacular strike in the 2-1 final victory against Korea Republic. The four goals saw him finish as the tournament’s second best scorer just a goal shy of Korea Republic’s Lee Seungwoo.
And it was his last goal that best showcased his qualities as a striking prodigy. Korea Republic took the lead through Choi Jaeyoung’s header before the break but Han drew level shortly after the restart. The rival defenders missed a long ball into the area and a lurking Han deftly brought down the ball with one touch before coolly firing home to equalise.
“That goal from the final is the most memorable for me during the campaign,” Han recalled. “I have given priority to dribbling during training so I am always hoping to contribute to the team’s victory through my skillful, active play.
“In every match, I play with my soul,” continued Han, who started playing football as an eight-year-old before being recruited into the national youth team. “Although we lost to Uzbekistan during the group phase, my team-mates and I remained confident of qualifying for the next stage.”
Aiming for new milestones
Coach Yon Kwang-Mu, meanwhile, paid tribute to the team’s organisation and never-say-die spirit as they went through a series of stiff tests en route to a second Asian crown. In fact, the Young Chollima were held to stalemates after 120 minutes by first Iran and then Australia during the knockout stage, only to progress through tense penalty shoot-out victories to set up the final meeting with their peninsula neighbours.
“Our boys gave it all during the competition,” remarked the former national team player. “They always maintained their concentration, played with full confidence and demonstrated the winning mentality as they won one game after another. The self-belief and willpower should be our major strengths in addition to our teamwork.”
Yon has now set his sights on springing a surprise in next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. Korea DPR twice progressed to the second round in the global showpiece in 2005 and 2007, and Yon is aiming to break new ground this time around.
“Our goal is to advance to the top four in Chile next year,” he revealed. “(To prepare for the competition) the majority of these players will be sent to Italy this year, where they can learn and improve. It is important for their development.”
With the team targeting an unprecedented result, striking-ace Han has set a fresh objective for himself hoping to transform his brilliant continental form to the global stage. “My goal is simple,” he concluded. “It is to score more than four goals in the World Cup.”