North Korean coach Kim Yong-Jun faces a formidable challenge after naming an inexperienced squad for the 2019 Asia Cup. Their captain Ri Myong-guk is the most experienced player with over 100 international caps to his name.
North Korea finished a disappointing 13th place after they did not win a single game during their group stage against China, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia. Ryang Yong-gi remained the only goal scorer for the Thousand-mile Horses.
North Korea’s fourth-place finish in 1980 on debut remains the best performance in their four previous appearances in Asian Cup. In 15 matches they have won three, lost ten and drawn two games to finish with a win percentage of 20%.
North Korea played just seven games as preparation for their AFC Asian Cup. They managed three victories which came against lower-ranked opponents and held Vietnam to a draw. They suffered heavily against Uzbekistan and Bahrain which has highlighted serious questions about their preparations.
Twenty-year-old striker Kwang-song Han became the first North Korean footballer to play in the Serie A after signing a contract with Cagliari. He plays in the Serie B after a loan deal with Perugia for whom he has struck seven goals so far.
Ri Myong-guk is the most capped footballer in North Korean football history. Having played in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he brings in a wealth of experience to this young team. The 2009 Asian player of the year and awarded the best North Korean male footballer for three consecutive years from 2014 to 2016, he remains an inspiration for young footballers.
Tuesday, 08 January 2019: North Korea (109) vs Saudi Arabia (69) - Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 21:30 IST.
Sunday, 13 January 2019: North Korea (109) vs Qatar (93) - Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 16:30 IST.
Thursday, 17 January 2019: North Korea (109) vs Lebanon (81) - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 21:30 IST.
North Korea is unfancied to win any of their group stage matches even though they enjoy a much better head-to-head record against Qatar. It would be a surprise if they qualify for the last sixteen, but on recent form, the North Korean squad is expected to pack their bags home at the end of the group stages.
Average Age: 25 years
International Caps: 378
International Goals: 59
Head Coach: Kim Yong-Jun (North Korea)
Goalkeepers: Kang Ju-hyok (Hwaebul), Sin Hyok (Kigwancha), Ri Myong-guk (captain) (Pyongyang City).
Defenders: Ri Thong-il (Kigwancha), An Song-il (April 25), Ri Chang-ho (Hwaebul), Ri Il-jin (Sobaeksu), Kim Song-gi (Fujieda MYFC), Kim Chol-Bom (April 25), Sim Hyon-jin (April 25), Jang Kuk-Chol (Hwaebul).
Midfielders: Choe Song-hyok (Arezzo), Kim Kyong-hun (Kyonggongop), Ri Kum-Chol (Wolmido), Kang Kuk-chol (Rimyongsu), Kim Yong-il (Kigwancha), Ri Un-chol (Sonbong), Ri Yong-jik (Tokyo Verdy).
Strikers: Han Kwang-song (Perugia), Rim Kwang-hyok (Kigwancha), Ri Hyok-Chol (Rimyongsu), Pak Kwang-ryong (St. Pölten), Jong Il-gwan (Unattached).