September 27, 2023

North Korea’s Battle Against Team USA

Yesterday the USA played North Korea in women's Olympic soccer, with the match-up long anticipated by many Korea watchers.  Leading up to the game the media in the U.S. was still mostly focused on their own side, with little mention of the DPRK side’s footballing merit. Reuters chose to focus on the political and historical differences between the countries as a lead-in, while SB NationThe Bleacher Report and The Washington Post all released articles focusing on the latest news from the USA camp, or the possibility of changes being made to the USA line-up. USA Today looked at the team’s thoughts on playing at Old Trafford and how the players have fared on an individual level away from the pitch during this tournament. It was left to Fox News to produce an article focusing mostly on the DPR Koreans, looking at the evasive nature of players and manager during interviews, their reluctance to give any access to journalists, and even the views of USA players towards the DPRK squad. Having shared a hotel with them, it seems Team USA at times viewed the DPRK as an exotic bunch, saying that they looked happier than the last time they saw them, hoping to get eye contact, and wondering what they do for fun back home. Despite this semi-orientalist view of their opponents, the most fruitful comment of the article would be the three reasons given by the DPRK staff as to why their players never left the hotel; their strict training schedule, their enjoyment of the hotel…and the fact that it rained so much in Glasgow. Perhaps they didn’t realise that it rains almost once every two days in the city. And so to the match.

Before this game the DPRK had fallen to a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of France, an outright capitulation at this level of football. Poor marking at corners and massive weaknesses down the DPRK left meant that France romped home by the end, comfortably winning without ever having to hit top gear. The DPRK had also inexplicably made changes to the starting line-up from the side which had defeated Colombia 2-0, notably dropping two-goal hero Kim Song-Hui and retreating into a defensive formation, very much unlike the tactics employed in the run-up to this tournament. This perhaps displayed the inferiority complex of Chollima sides when competing against the top-ranked nations, and they focused on cancelling out the French rather than looking to exploit weaknesses.