The World Cup Alphabet – K is for…

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Throughout their mainly brief stays at the World Cup, both North and South Korea have had their small moments of victory with an ability to send the giants on their way.



The North Koreans first came in to being as a World Cup side at the expense of our own naive pioneers going around in their first ever qualifying campaign in 1965. In neutral Cambodia, the military-trained and robotic North Koreans defeated the Socceroos 6-1 and then 3-1 to qualify for England.



With pride instilled, North Korea almost never actually got to the World Cup with the home office in the UK taking for ever to process their visas. Only 14 years since the end of the Korean War (which technically was still raging between the Koreas) the UK Government were a little touchy about what the North Koreans might get up to with the whole cold war thing going on.



Fortunately a last minute approval was given for them to visit the host country, with the proviso that their national anthem would not be played. God knows why. This didn’t seem to harm the North Koreans though, they just came up with a new anthem with lyrics such as “we can beat everyone, even the strongest team”…Jagger/Richards eat your heart out. Apparently on the train journey between London and the North East of England they had the train singing along to their songs of national pride.



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North Korea at the 1966 tournament



The North Korean side were based in Middleborough, which may have made the Koreans feel at home with all the smog, awful weather and grim industrialisation. Yet it took a while for them to warm up in the tournament itself. They lost to their Soviet brothers 3-0 in the first game and then were two minutes from elimination against Chile before a late equaliser. In their final group game against a feared Italian side a goal from Pak Doo-Ik saw Italy out and North Korea through in one of the great upsets.



North Korea would be up 3-0 against Portugal in the quarter finals before Eusebio did his thing but they left an indelible mark on the tournament. The people of Boro had taken to the side as well, adopting the team as their own with the local club and the Koreans having the same red shirts. While Ayresome Park, the venue where North Korea scored their famous win, is now a housing estate the place where Doo-Ik scored from is marked with a small plaque of a football.



As part of a documentary called “The Game of their lives”, the nine surviving members of the squad re-visited Middlesbrough and were once again welcomed with open arms, some by the children or grandchildren of those charmed by them the first time. Local council members and performers have also been invited to North Korea to perform or attend ceremonies.



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One of the nine returning survivors at Riverside Stadium, Boro’s replacement stadium for Ayresome Park.


In 2010 North Korea finally made it back to the World Cup but were a dour outfit going out in the first round in what was a group of death (football wise). The story wasn’t the same but the pride from the players wasn’t any different. In the opening game against Brazil, the keeper Ri-Myung Gok sobbed uncontrollably as the North Korean national anthem was played. Their women’s side has achieved more winning the Asian Cup in 2008 (defeating our Matildas) and losing the 2010 event (against our Matildas). They also made the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2007.



South of the border, Football, much like the state of the South Korean economy and national pride, rose in the fifties from out of nowhere thanks mainly to hard work. They won the first two Asian Cups and qualified for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland where they were roundly flogged and are up there with Zaire in 1974 as the worst team to appear in a World Cup. It would be 32 years before they would frequent the World Cup again and haven’t missed out on a tournament since.



The trouble was up until the 2002 World Cup they hadn’t won a game either. There were the famous draws with Spain at USA ’94 and with Belgium at France ’98 but they hadn’t really set the World Cup on fire. 2002 saw both South Korea and their neighbours Japan host the tournament and big guns were needed to give the Koreans a bit of oomph. Coach Huh Jung-Moo was shown the door in late 2000 and no expense was spared to bring in everyone’s favourite loveable mercenary Guus Hiddink to try and make South Korea a competitive unit on home soil.



With no Asian Cup to worry about Guus used the friendlies and minor regional tournament to hone and craft his South Korean side with an emphasis on the players in the local leagues and not being solely reliant on the players in Europe playing in limited capacities. Even with Guus in control and a couple of decent results behind them (including a win over champions France) many expected South Korea to be the first host to not make it out of the first round. They were in the shadow of Japan with their flash French boss in Phillipe Troussier with many thinking that they would be the pony to bet on, wrong…wrong…wrong.



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South Koreans trying to channel their cousins up North (and succeeding) before playing Italy in 2002. Both North and South Korea eliminated Italy some 36 years apart.


Korea won their group and then somehow defeated Italy to make the quarter finals. There they eliminated Spain on penalties to make the semi finals. Yes, some referee decisions were questionable but it was a tremendous journey. The country deeply immersed in obsession for their beloved ‘Red Devils’, the banner ‘Korea Team Fighting’ which was the length of the Flemington home straight stretched across the fences.



In 2006 they suffered a bit of a hangover under Dick Advocaat and went out in the first round. In 2010 they went down to a red-hot Uruguayan side in the second round. In 2014 they would have their worst World Cup since 1998 drawing one game and losing two including conceding four to a normally stoic and defensive Algerian side. They are back again this time and will be lucky to be make it out of their group but there a consistent side that we should aspire to be like.
Some German brands guarantee quality. Audi, BMW, Allianz, BASF, Beckenbauer. The list goes on forever.
Franz Beckenbauer has many records, won many cups and is a legend of the game above a vast majority of his peers. Known simply as ‘The Kaiser’, he wasn’t a hyperactive highly skilled excitement machine like a Pele or Maradona. He was graceful and elegant pulling the strings for both Bayern Munich and West Germany as a midfielder and then as a ‘sweeper’, the latter a role he pretty much came up with. A Munich native, he was with Bayern from the start of his professional career and was in to the West German side at age of 19 being risked for a vital qualifier against Sweden. This was after he had been banned from the U-20 German side for refusing to marry his pregnant teenage girlfriend.
At only 20 he starred in the 1966 World Cup having the run of the midfield and scoring four goals as they went all the way to the final. His timing of entering the penalty area to meet the pass to score was second to none. He would be named in the Best XI for the tournament. He would be in the Best XI of the tournament for all three World Cups he participated in.
In 1970 his hairline had receded as much as career and standing as a star had progressed. Acting as a sweeper he would go ‘free range’ from the back and make runs through the midfield and in to attack. At the World Cup, West Germany didn’t drop a point in the first round before, again, facing England. In another classic, England were 2-0 up before Beckenbauer inspired a come back with a magnificent goal some 22 minutes from time. West Germany scored again and in extra time the comeback was done, completing revenge on the English and the linesmen for 1966.
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Just a flesh wound…

The semi final in 1970 was one of the great games and Beckenbauer was at the centre of it. Following a tackle – much like the one Mo Salah copped on the weekend – he had his shoulder dislocated. Yet he kept playing with his arm strapped across his torso being unable to be subbed. Even though not captain he was the leader of men never letting Italy get that second goal after they had scored early. West Germany equalised in the dying moments of regular time and the game finished 4-3 after extra time. Italy had outlasted a gallant West German side in front of 100,000 or so in searing heat. Many remember the images of a wounded Beckenbauer undaunted and unbowed more than the victorious Italians.
In between World Cups he led West Germany to the 1972 European Championship as captain. As hosts and under the leadership of The Kaiser, West Germany would make the final of World Cup ’74. In his native Munich, he led West Germany to a memorable win stopping the clockwork orange and finally lifting the Cup at his third attempt. Following this triumph he led Bayern Munich to three European Cups in a row confirming his immortality. Being from Bavaria didn’t mean he was devoid of having a laugh either. He appeared in the Monty Python sketch “The Philosophers World Cup”.

“Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there.”


In 1977 at the age of 32 he would retire from international football with over 100 caps. In 1984 after retiring from the superannuation-building old US Soccer League he was made coach of the West German national side. This was an appointment made with Beckenbauer having no previous coaching experience that outraged the German press even if it was who it was.
His inexperience as a coach didn’t seem to matter as the players identified with his playing career and with his greatness. He got the best out of players because he knew the position they were in. With a side still derided following their antics at the 1982 tournament, Beckenbauer coached West Germany to an anguished 3-2 loss to Argentina in the final. In 1990 they now had new blood mixed with the experience of players like his captain, fellow Bavarian and fellow sweeper Lothar Matthuas. West Germany would do it this time over the Argies winning a third World Cup and confirming Beckenbauer’s greatness by being the only man to captain and coach teams to a World Cup victory.
Following his coaching career he was involved in the administrative side of the sport. He was president of his beloved Bayern Munich helping make them in to the giant they are today on and off the pitch. Following this he was involved with the German Football Association and was pivotal in winning the hosting rights to the World Cup in 2006. His involvement has also attracted inquiries due to his conduct in attaining votes. A tainted stain on an otherwise peerless career.
During the 2006 World Cup Beckenbauer attended every game bar the ones played at the same time shooting all over the country. The seat on the left of him would be for his wife, the seat on the right his mistress (who he’d met a Bayern Munich Christmas Party).
An Emperor of football if ever there was one.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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