North Korea: Jong aiming to revive glory of 1966

Topics

KAWASAKI, Japan - North Korea have nothing to lose at the World Cup and will be playing to "revive the glory" of their dream run to the 1966 quarter-finals, striker Jong Tae-se told Reuters in an interview.

Japan-based Jong, dubbed "Asia's Wayne Rooney" by the media but who prefers to be likened to Didier Drogba, has few fears about the North's first World Cup appearance since their astonishing run to the last eight in England 44 years ago.

"I'm going to do my best to revive the glory of 1966," he told Reuters after training with J-League side Kawasaki Frontale on Wednesday. "North Korea have nothing to lose.

"Nobody would blame us if we lose all three games because us being in the finals itself is a surprise," the 26-year-old added.

North Korea's 'Class of 66' sent shockwaves around the world by stunning Italy 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals. They even took a three-goal lead against Portugal before losing 5-3.

Jong described his country's draw for the 2010 finals as the dreaded "group of death," with North Korea up against Portugal, Ivory Coast and co-favourites Brazil.

"If we could steal just one victory, people around the world will hail us," said Jong, born in Japan and educated in pro-North Korean schools. "We have no pressure of any kind."

DIPLOMATIC SKILLS

The player tip-toed around questions about Japan's highly ambitious semi-final target.

"Japan are aiming for the semi-finals - we are just looking to make the knockout stage," he said. "I don't think it's just a dream for us."

The North could hardly have had a tougher draw than Group G for the finals in South Africa, but Jong said the outsiders could have a psychological edge.

"We can't match the top teams in the world, or even Asian teams, with technical skills or tactics," he said, with the team's June 15 opener against Brazil less than three months away.

"But we have a mental strength which can't be beaten by Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast. That's our main strength."

Jong, a bustling player frequently asked to play as a lone striker for North Korea, brushed off comparisons with England and Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney.

"I'm happy to be called that but my style is more similar to Drogba's," he said unabashed. "I want to exchange shirts with him at the World Cup.

"He's been my inspiration since I became a professional player so I'm delighted to be playing against the Ivory Coast."

Follow FFT.com on Twitter Join FFT.com on Facebook