NELSPRUIT, June 26 (Reuters) - North Korean players need to gain experience in Europe to make an impact at future World Cups, according to striker Jong Tae-se.
In only their second appearance at a World Cup finals the Koreans lost all three group games to Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast, conceding 12 goals and scoring only once.
Friday's 3-0 defeat to the Ivorians highlighted the gulf in class between North Korea and the top international teams. Jong said spirit and togetherness could only take North Korea so far, the players needed exposure to top level football to improve.
"We need more experience playing in other countries, like (Rostov's) Hong Yong-jo. I am just playing in Japan so I have to transfer to Europe," said Jong, who plays for J-League side Kawasaki Frontale.
"One of the good things about our football is that everybody was playing for the team for a year, so we made good relationships and good friendships but now that's not enough.
"There is a very big difference between the top of the world teams and our football team and we have to change many things."
North Korea earned a host of new admirers at the World Cup thanks to their passion, sense of fair play and perseverance with the passing game.
From the outpouring of emotion following Ji Yun-nam's late goal against Brazil to Jong Tae-se's tears of pride listening to the national anthem, few sides have shown as much passion in playing for their country than the Koreans.
While it is unclear how much the people of North Korea actually saw of their team's exploits in South Africa, coach Kim Jong-hun is convinced there will be a positive impact.
"Even though we didn't get the results, a lot of young children in North Korea will be motivated to get interested in football," he told a news conference.
"We have a lot of young players in North Korea with great potential both physically and technically. I think we will see a lot more good players in the future ... and I firmly believe we will be there at the next World Cup."comments