Within ten days of returning to her home town of Pyongyang, Sung was packing her bags again for another world finals adventure. Her destination this time was the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, where things have been going according to plan for a Korea DPR side with designs on lifting another trophy. After winning all their group matches – one of only two sides to do so, along with Germany – the North Koreans look well equipped to go all the way again.
Sung featured in two of Korea DPR’s group games in Papua New Guinea, scoring one of the goals in their 7-1 defeat of the tournament hosts. “I always want to score,” she told FIFA.com. “When I’m out on the pitch I give my all for the team and I always expect to get a goal or to set one up.”
Though only 16, she poses plenty of problems to opposing defences with her pace. That said, and in spite of being very pleased with her performances at Jordan 2016, Sung is determined to become an even better player. “This is the U-20 World Cup and I need to keep improving,” she explained. “I hope I get the chance to do that.” That opportunity could well come in Thursday’s quarter-final against Spain, a team the striker describes as “one of the best in the world”.
Singing in the rain
Sung is the second-youngest member of the Korea DPR squad, behind reserve goalkeeper Ok Kum-Ju, who is four months her junior and who was also on duty at Jordan 2016. Not many players can match the pacy forward when it comes to experience, however, with Sung having made her international debut at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, a tournament in which her side went out in the group phase.
“I let nerves get the better of me on that occasion and I had a lot of respect for the other teams, especially the European ones. They had some very big players who really imposed themselves on me,” said Sung, reflecting on her first World Cup experience. “What’s different now is that we know we can beat anyone.”
Since then, Sung, who wears the No2 jersey and usually operates on the right side of attack, has gained in maturity and experience, having also appeared at two consecutive AFC Asian U-16 Women’s Championships. The scorer of four goals as the North Koreans finished continental runners-up in 2013, Sung struck another three two years later in China PR to help her team take the Asian title, which was secured with victory over Japan in the final. In then helping Korea DPR triumph at Jordan 2016, she earned herself a trip to Papua New Guinea.
Sung and her team-mates began the U-20 world finals as favourites along with Germany and USA, a status they owe in part to their compatriots’ triumph in the same age group at Russia 2006, when Kim Song-Hui and Jo Yun-Mi led the North Koreans to glory. Though Sung was only six at the time, she has fresh memories of the tournament, not least the heavy rain that fell during the final against China PR.
It has barely rained in Papua New Guinea in the two weeks since the competition got under way, though Sung and her team-mates are not too concerned about that. Their thoughts are firmly focused on winning through to the final in Port Moresby on 3 December and on landing a title that will inspire a new generation of North Korean youngsters to follow in their footsteps in the future.