JOHANNESBURG (AP) — North Korea's coach praised his team for playing "bravely" in its opening 2-1 loss to Brazil at the World Cup.
After a scoreless first half, Brazil broke through North Korea's solid defense in the second Tuesday night, with Maicon and Elano finding the net. North Korea's Ji Yun Nam scored his team's lone goal in the 89th minute.
"We may not have won the match but our players showed very strong form and they fought bravely," coach Kim Jong Hun said after the game. "I'm happy that we scored one goal against Brazil, and I'm very proud of my players."
He said the match provided the players with valuable experience and confidence as they prepare for games against Portugal and Ivory Coast, Kim said.
North Korea's official news agency characterized the match as a "seesaw battle."
"The DPRK footballers created good shooting chances, not losing their confidence even after losing two goals," the Korean Central New Agency said Wednesday. DPRK stands for the Democratic Republic of Korea, the country's official name.
It had been unclear whether North Koreans, who have almost no access to outside media, would get to see their team play after South Korea's SBS, which owns the broadcast rights for the entire Korean peninsula, ruled out offering the North a feed due to political tensions.
South Korea accuses the North of sinking a warship in March, killing 46 sailors. Pyongyang denies any role in the incident.
The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union has agreed with FIFA to beam live coverage to North Korea, John Barton, sport director of the Kuala Lumpur-based ABU, confirmed Tuesday.
Jong Tae Se, North Korea's leading scorer, told the Japan-based Choson Sinbo newspaper he was pleased with how the team played.
"We were able to play our brand of soccer during the first half, but after allowing a goal in the second half, we had a difficult time," he told the pro-Pyongyang, Korean-language newspaper in an interview published Wednesday.
"It's disappointing that we didn't win, and I ache for not having scored a goal," Jong added.
He dropped to his knees when the game came to an end, and was comforted by the coach on the pitch. Jong had told The Associated Press earlier that he was aiming to score a goal a game at the World Cup.
Jong, born and raised in Japan within the country's pro-Pyongyang Korean community, sobbed Tuesday as North Korea's anthem played.
"I was filled with emotion when thinking about how I've arrived at the World Cup, my dream since I was a child," he told Choson Sinbo.
It's the first time both Koreas have teams at the World Cup, and South Korean fans were following North Korean team's progress closely despite political tensions between their two nations.
"North Korea struck terror in Brazil's heart," read one newspaper headline in Seoul. "North Korea's suffocating defense made the world's greatest nervous," said another.
South Korea's Munhwa Ilbo newspaper printed a close-up of Jong's tearful face with the headline: "Cry not, People's Rooney — you've intimidated the world's No. 1."
The South Korean media have nicknamed Jong "the People's Rooney" after England's Wayne Rooney for his penchant for scoring.
Associated Press writers Sangwon Yoon, Kwang-tae Kim and Claire Lee contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.