North Korea’s World Cup team arrived home stony-faced after three straight losses but brightened up when welcomed at the airport by families and supporters, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on Wednesday.
The North Koreans, competing in the tournament for the first time since 1966, put up an impressive 1-2 performance against Brazil but were routed 0-7 by Portugal and 0-3 by the Ivory Coast in the other two group games.
The impoverished communist state was gripped by football fever after the dogged display against Brazil, Choson Sinbo reported earlier.
Authorities carried the clash with Portugal live but the hail of goals from the European side left the commentator speechless.
Choson Sinbo said on Wednesday the squad arrived stony-faced in rain on Tuesday but “regained their smiles after being welcomed by their families” and supporters crowding the airport.
“Related officials comforted the players by saying ‘work appreciated’,” the paper said.
“The dominant voice is that the players will reap good results in the future if they use the confidence and experience gained from the advance to the World Cup.”
Speaking in South Africa after the Brazil game, coach Kim Jong-Hun had dismissed suggestions that there might be “consequences” for him and the team back home if they failed to impress against Portugal and Ivory Coast.
“Sometimes you win or lose, it doesn’t always turn out the way you want, but if it doesn’t turn out the way we want, there will be no further consequences for that,” he told reporters.