North Korean cliches just the same as Western ones

By Brian Homewood

AYENT, Switzerland (Reuters) - Mysterious North Korea's coach gave the rarest of media conferences Friday and revealed almost nothing, except that football cliches in the hermit republic are no different from the west.

Kim Jong-Hun even trotted out the old favorite about there being no weak teams at the World Cup as he addressed a small gathering of reporters before a training session on a mountainside pitch in the quiet Swiss village of Avent.

Kim, a former North Korea defender about whom almost nothing is known, stuck his neck out only once when he said his team's aim was to reach the second round in South Africa next month.

"We have the objective to get as much success as possible in the World Cup and our main objective is to proceed to the second round, to play well and proceed to the last 16," he said through an interpreter.

His other replies left everyone just as much in the dark as they had been before.

Asked if he agreed that North Korea's group, which features Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast, was the most difficult, he replied: "All the participating teams in the World Cup are strong, there is no weak or strong team in the World Cup.

TOUGHEST GROUP

"As for Group G, people say it is the toughest group, as I have heard, but I think that every team is strong and I have no feeling as to whether we are in the toughest group or not.

He was equally elusive on his team's playing style.

"We still have one month to go and we have to analyze our opponents to see what condition their players are in technically as well as physically, then make our system accordingly.

"Maybe it could be defensive or maybe it could be attacking. To make it more specific, before the match we could analyze our opponents and accordingly we will make it attack or defensive with counter-attack.

Having answered seven questions in a 12-minute session -- the only one of their 12-day stay in the region -- Kim said it was time to join his players for their afternoon practice.

There was no hint of special security during the training session, which was open to the media and public and did not appear any more regimented than better-known teams.

North Korea have qualified for their second World Cup, having pulled off one of the competition's upsets -- a 1-0 win over Italy -- on their previous appearance in 1966.

They reached the quarter-finals and led 3-0 against Portugal before losing 5-3 after a Eusebio-inspired fightback.

North Korea face Paraguay in a friendly in the Swiss town of Nyon Saturday.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)