A reserved Jo Tong Sop praised tournament organisers and fellow participants on Friday ahead of North Korea’s January 10 clash with Uzbekistan.
The 55-year-old, who is on his second stint as head coach after replacing the suspended Yun Jong Su, praised his team’s Saturday opponents.
“Uzbekistan are very strong; they’re good enough to make tomorrow a competitive match,” Jo said during his press conference at the Stadium Australia in Sydney. “We know a little about them and have made our plan; tomorrow we’ll see if it works.
“We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. If we have a good result from this tournament, it would please the whole nation.
The coach was rapidly put on the spot by media in attendance, with the first question an inquiry regarding Suwon Bluewings striker Jong Tae Se’s absence from the squad.
“His condition is not very good,” Jo answered, “he has a leg injury and we did not have enough time to call him up.”
He also dodged a question about a hypothetical North-South face-off in the quarterfinals, saying, “If we prepare well for each match then we can beat any team, whether that’s South Korea or anybody else.”
Jo was joined at the podium by goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk, the team’s goalkeeper and team captain.
“Each and every team has come here to win the competition and so have we,” said Ri, who appeared in the 2010 World Cup, “We know it won’t be easy but we’ll do our best.
“In one sentence I’ll say that it’s our wish to win, which would bring pleasure to General Kim Jong Un and the people in our country. That is what we want.”
After Saturday’s campaign-opener, North Korea will travel south to play Saudi Arabia in Melbourne before facing neighbours China in Canberra.