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World Cup minnows looking to make hay while the sun shines

While nobody will admit to arriving at the World Cup just to make up the numbers, the realists among the 32 nations competing will know that it's highly unlikely that they'll get out of the group stages.

South Korean player Kim Chi-woo (L) fights for the ball with North Korean player Jong Tae-se (R) during their 2010 World Cup Qualifier South Korea vs North Korea soccer match at Sangam World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, 22 June 2008.

Both Koreas are at the World Cup. The South should last longer

No-one can say what will happen at a World Cup. Previous form means little in the heat of battle at the world's biggest soccer tournament. Good teams can have bad days and bad teams can have good ones. But there are certain teams who arrive with barely a shred of hope of getting out of the group stage. They may make things difficult for their group opponents and maybe pull off a shock on their way out of the competition, but these are the teams who arrive with no expectations and who are just happy to be there.

There are a number of teams who may struggle in the group stages but here, Deutsche Welle takes a look at three teams who may already have their return tickets booked for June 26th when the knock-out stage begins.

North Korea

The team from the one of the world's most secretive and repressive states is apparently resorting to type in South Africa by keeping its preparations and players under cover. Journalists are given short shrift, while training sessions - which every other team has opened to the public - are held behind closed doors. Perhaps North Korea are just afraid at showing their Group C rivals just how bad they are. Saying that, they are at the World Cup for the first time since they famously reached the quarter-finals of the 1966 finals so they can't be that bad – can they?

North Korea fans cheer up during of a World Cup soccer qualifying match against South Korea

Let's hope that the North Korean team are as well-drilled and co-ordinated as their supporters

Qualifying from the Asia conference after beating the likes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and United Arab Emirates, and holding their own with their more experienced Southern neighbors, North Korea – known as the Chollima, a mythical horse too swift to be mounted – start with a clean slate, just like everyone else at the 2010 World Cup.

But after failing to make the finals at any point in the last 44 years and finding themselves in the "Group of Death" with Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast, it doesn't matter how good or bad they are, the smart money is on North Korea heading home after three games.

The team, ranked 105th in the world, is made up predominantly of players who feature in North Korean teams with only a handful playing outside of the ironhanded communist state. Jong Tae-Se, known as Asia's Wayne Rooney, and An Yong-Hak play in Japan's J-League while striker Hong Yong-Jo plays for Russia's FC Rostov. Such is the nature of the country's regime, very little is known about the rest of the team.

New Zealand

Coming from one of the most laid-back countries on earth, the All Whites arrive in South Africa under no illusions. Faced with a group featuring World Champions Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia, the New Zealand team accepts that their World Cup is likely to end at the group stage. This will not stop them from giving their all and enjoying the experience to the fullest.

New Zealand's soccer team the All Whites

The All Whites - here in all black - may not be world beaters but they might make it harder for others

However, instead of arriving expecting to get thrashed, the All Whites are quietly confident that they can at least give their Group F opponents a few headaches after a 1-0 friendly victory over Serbia and feisty defeats to Chile, to whom they lost 2-0, and a close 2-1 loss to Oceania rivals Australia. While they might not be heading for knock-out stage qualification themselves, their involvement in the tournament may at least dictate who out of their group opponents' progress.

The Minnows from the cinematic Middle Earth have only featured in one other Word Cup, in Spain in 1982, when they lost all three matches. Much like what is expected from this tournament, the All Whites gave a good account of themselves in a difficult group featuring Brazil, the Soviet Union and Scotland.

Honduras

If facing one of the World Cup favorites, a plucky European battler, and one of the best teams in South America (on current form) isn't bad enough, Honduras arrive in South Africa without a win to their name since January's 2-1 victory over the United States. They recently struggled in a goalless draw with Azerbaijan, labored to a 2-2 draw against Belarus and also got beaten 3-0 by non-qualifier Romania in their final friendly before heading to the World Cup. Getting the type of results to beat Spain, Switzerland and Chile to qualify from Group H may be a tall order for Honduras on current form.

Carlos Pavon of Honduras celebrates

Pavon and co. are already being written off back home

There is quality in the side, which features Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Wilson Palacios, as well as an experienced strike force made up of David Suazo, who plays for Genoa in Italy's Serie A, and the ageless Carlos Pavon.

The 36-year-old Pavon is closing in on the two-decade mark in a career which has taken him to 15 clubs and counting, in countries as disparate as Italy, Spain, Colombia, and the United States

But the team's confidence won't be helped by news from home that the majority of supporters are horrified by their pre-World Cup form. Pressure is building on Colombian-born coach Reinaldo Rueda who is accused by many pundits back in Honduras of having no idea as to how he wants the team to play.

With Spain looking more dangerous than ever, the Swiss capable of either genius or farce under Ottmar Hitzfeld, and high-scoring Chile obsessed with fast-tempo attacking play, the best Honduras can hope for is a result against Switzerland and damage control against the Spaniards and Chileans before flying home to face their rabid press.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor:Matt Hermann

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