North Korea not satisfied with 7-0 win over Cambodia
Hosts beware, the hot favourites aim to be better than they were in mauling of Cambodia
North Korea's Under-15 coach was apparently furious after his boys had chalked up the 7-0 win over Cambodia at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday.
The result reinforced their position as favourites to top Group H of the Asian Football Confederation Under-16 Championships qualifying campaign, but Kim Yong Hun was not impressed.
"The players didn't play to my expectations," Kim said, post-match.
"We planned to do something more, but we didn't do it. I'm not happy with our attack, defence and how four of our players received yellow cards."
While some may think Kim, who has an AFC 'A' coaching licence, is an overbearing coach, his supporters would argue such high standards are exactly what is necessary to take a team to the top.
North Korea, who take on V Selvaraj's Singapore Under-15s tonight, believe they know how to bring the best out of young footballers.
They are Asia's defending Under-16 champions, stunning South Korea 2-1 in last year's final. Their age-group sides were also losing finalists at the 2014 Under-14 championship, and winners of the Under-19 title as recently as 2010.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, a spokesman for the team hailed strong support from the government and the FA as reasons for the country's success on the pitch.
Giving a glimpse into how the communist country develops young talent, he cited the example of the Pyongyang International Football School, which was established in 2013 and currently has about 200 hopefuls aged seven to 18.
These student-athletes go to class in the morning and train in the afternoon, and the best are selected to join the national teams.
For the Under-15s, the spokesman, who declined to be named, said 50 players were scouted and recruited from all over the country before they were centralised in Pyongyang two months before these qualifiers.
At the national team training centre in the country's capital, they have six natural and artificial pitches to choose from.
The team here trained five days a week before 21 were selected to travel to Singapore.
The Koreans have developed a reputation as being extremely defensive.
But against the Cambodians, the boys showed flair with their fancy flicks and footwork, possibly influenced by the La Liga and Bundesliga action they get to catch on television back home.
"Like many countries, football is the No. 1 sport and the players learn from what they see on TV, as well as from their coaches," said the spokesman.
"We also selected them based on their physical attributes because as you can see, the Middle Eastern teams are very big nowadays. I feel Singapore are also a good team with good skills and tactics, but lost to Thailand because of the lack of size.
"What doesn't change for us is that the team's foundations are still built on mental power, teamwork and team spirit."
The spokesman acknowledged that there is still work to be done to translate success at youth level to the global senior stage.
He said: "Of course, we all have a dream to qualify for the World Cup.
"We will always remember and be inspired by our 1966 team that beat Italy and became the first nation from Asia to get past the group stages, and also the 2010 team.
"From the team that were the 2010 AFC Under-19 champions, some (like MVP Jong Il Gwan) have already gone on to play for the national team, as we try to do well in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers.
"At the youth level, we will continue to work hard and try to win as many matches as we can."
- CAMBODIA v THAILAND
(5pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)