North Korea was defeated handily by the Ivory Coast today, 3-0. Having not won a single game, our favorite squad of plucky autocratic regime subjects are returning home. There they'll face hard labor or an outpouring of nationalist appreciation.
If you squint hard enough after a couple beers, North Korea's World Cup appearance—its first since 1966—did have the air of a "brotherhood of sports" moment that, in the West, usually feature either Emilio Estevez or Air Bud: South Koreans briefly forgot about that time the North sunk their battleship and cheered them on! North Korean players hung out with South African schoolkids, and Japanese-born striker Jong Tae-Se gave interviews in a bunch of of languages.
But, really, it was about how fucking weird North Korea is. Those creepily synchronized fans: Were they really paid Chinese actors, or actual North Korean migrant laborers? Coach Kim Jong-Hun claimed Kim Jong-Il delivered tactical advice via an invisible phone (which a South Korean paper later used as proof that KJI himself was to blame for North Korea's crushing 7-0 defeat to Portugal. When four names were accidentally left off North Korea's roster before the opening match, the media instantly assumed they had defected.
The only thing we really learned about North Korea is that they are not very good at soccer. Save the truly incredible goal against Brazil in their opener, Korea was completely shut out—in their last game, they were outshot 28-9 by the Ivory Coast, who themselves didn't even make it into the knockout round. Intelligence analysts are no doubt poring over game tapes for hints into North Korea's nuclear capabilities.