Monday, April 05, 2010

North Korean strikers leading the way

Understandably, no one is giving North Korea any hope of doing anything at the World Cup finals in June.

But take a look at the scorers' charts in the J.League and you'll see two of the country's strikers are leading the way in what is unquestionably Asia's finest league.

The sight of Chong Tese (or Jong Tae-se as the North Koreans spell his name) in second place comes as little surprise given his performances over recent years since breaking through at Kawasaki Frontale several years ago.

But the sight of Ryang Yong-gi's name at the top of the rankings with four goals in five games for newly promoted Vegalta Sendai is a surprise.

Ryang, like Chong, was born and bred in Japan but, at least partially because of the country's attitude towards what they see as non-Japanese ethnic groups, they have grown up with a greater allegiance to North Korea and both have opted to play for the Stalinist regime as opposed to the land of their birth.

That, particularly in Chong's case, is a major loss for the Japanese. While he's not the world's best striker, he does offer a physicality that is lacking within the Japan team at present and he would certainly have been in contention for a place on the plane to South Africa.

Ryang, however, has come to the fore only in recent times. He played just once during the World Cup qualifiers but was in the DPRK team that won the Asian Challenge Cup and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Clearly the prospect of joining the rest of the North Korean side in South Africa has seen him raise his game this season.

Of course, it's still early days in the current J.League season but the North Koreans will no doubt be taking great heart from the performances of two players who are almost certain now to be on their way to the World Cup to take on Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast.


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  2. Hi Michael, really enjoyed the blog, really is a throwback to a previous time to have such an little-known quantity as North Korea in a World Cup.

    Remember getting excited about an exotic Colombian team that had destroyed Argentina in qualifying ahead of 1994. Little did I know what was to come!

    Anyway, apologies for adding to the number of people who are using these comments to get in contact with you, but I was hoping I may be able to grab a quick telephone interview with you for a feature on North Korea I am putting together for the BBC Sport website.

    Would be great to get your insight on their rather dour qualifying campaign, who we should be looking out and what is the best they can expect from that tough group.

    If it sounds like something that might be up your street, drop me an email on

    Best wishes,

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