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N. Korea Feeling Bitter in Defeat

September 26, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — The North Koreans complained about the refereeing.

The North Koreans complained about the poor state of their training fields.

About the only thing the North Koreans did not complain about Thursday night was Victoria Svensson's seventh-minute goal for Sweden that sent them to a 1-0 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.

The result means that Sweden and North Korea are tied for second place in Group A, each with three points compared to six for the United States and none for Nigeria. The Swedes play the Nigerians next and the Koreans match up against the defending world champions.

With their World Cup hopes therefore hanging by a thread, it was apparently best Thursday for the North Koreans to deflect attention elsewhere.

After a hard-fought game, in which the Swedes scored early and hung on tightly, the Koreans came off the field and headed for the bus, bypassing the media. That included Coach Ri Song Gun, who had happily met the press after his team's earlier 2-0 victory over Nigeria.

Instead, it was left to Korean delegation "team leader" Pak Chang Nam to face reporters afterward, his comments being relayed via a translator. Here is some of what he said:

"Teams can sometimes win and sometimes lose ... [but] if the referee cannot conduct [the game] according to the FIFA rules it can affect the players' performance," he said.

"During the match it is natural that players come into contact, but sometimes the referee [Australia's Tammy Ogston] did not referee strictly according to the regulations so that spectators did not understand what was right and what was wrong."

With that cleared up, it was time for Pak to point out alleged deficiencies in the team's training sites, which included two local universities and a local soccer club.

"Frankly speaking, the facilities and conditions for the team to train were not very good," he said.

"We had to travel very far and the training conditions were not up to international standards. The fields, for example, were uneven and had a lot of holes in them."

The biggest hole was in the North Korean defense, which Svensson exploited to the fullest.

Malin Andersson lofted the ball into the penalty area and Svensson, running between three or four static Korean defenders, hit it on the volley and sent it spinning into the back of the net.

Although Hanna Ljungberg almost made it 2-0 a few minutes later when she forced Korean goalkeeper Ri Jong Hui into a fine diving save, it was the only goal the Swedes would need.

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