DPR Korea overcame title favourites Japan 5-3 on penalties to win the AFC Youth Championship at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, India Sunday evening.
Japanese Tsukasa Umesaki's opening penalty was blocked by goalkeeper Ju Kwang-min while Choe Myong-ho, Jon Kwang-ik, Ri Kwang-hyok, Jong Chol-min and Ri Chol-myong all converted for DPR Korea.
Mike Havenaar, Sho Ito and Atomu Tanaka were on target for Japan.
Ri Chol-myong put DPR Korea ahead in the third minute before Yosuke Kashiwagi restored parity for Japan in the 34th minute. The penalties were applied after the teams were level 1-1 at the end of regulation and extra-time.
DPR Korea coach Jo Tong-sop dedicated the victory to the people of his country. "We are happy to win the trophy but we have to continue this show in the next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada," he said.
"We lost the Group C opening game to Japan 2-0 but I told my players today to play with a single mind and team work. Individual brilliance won't help if you don't work as a team."
DPR Korea shared the title with Iran in 1976 after a scoreless draw in the days when penalty kicks were yet to be introduced. In 1990, they lost in the final to South Korea 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 deadlock in regulation time.
The victory also represents a comeback of DPR Korea who were ousted from the qualifying and dumped into a playoff by none other than Japan. In the playoff, an inexplicable pull-out by Myanmar helped DPR Korea qualify for the finals after 16 long years.
The match got off to an explosive start as DPR Korea midfielder Ri Chol-myong surprised Japan with his third minute strike by catching Japanese goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi offguard with his lob from midfield which sailed into the net.
The Koreans' well-orchestrated attacks and excellent coordination unsettled the Japanese initially. They continued the pressure and had another chance in the 14th minute but Yun Yong-il's volley was just off the mark.
The Japanese regained their rhythm soon and three minutes later they had a real chance when Masato Morishige failed to connect in a goalmouth melee and defender Yong-il cleared the threat.
Korea could have doubled the advantage in the 26th minute when Kim Kum-il, who won the Most Valuable Player of the tournament award, was brought down by Japanese midfielder Jun Aoyama but their appeal for a penalty was turned down by Kuwaiti referee Qasem Shaban.
Japan levelled the score in the 34th minute when Kashiwagi, who scored against DPR Korea in the open game in Bangalore, dodged his markers Pak Nam-chol and Ri Chol-myong inside the area and his low left-footer found the right corner of the net.
In the 56th minute a lob from Yong-il bounced on the crossbar and Pak Chol-min's header on the rebound was pouched by Hayashi. Two minutes later Tsukasa Umesaki's powerful shot was parried by Korean keeper Ju Kwang-min.
Japanese coach Yasushi Yoshida replaced Morishima with Mike Havenaar after the restart and reinforced the frontline by fielding Sho Ito for Kota Aoki in the 75th minute.
In the 77th minute, Masato Morishige's header on a free kick hit the woodwork and Havenaar failed to connect with the rebound.
Kum-il came close to getting the winner in the 87th minute but his volley from the edge of the box was palmed out by Hayashi.
In extra-time, DPR Korea's substitute Choe Myong-ho, who is also the reigning AFC Youth Player of the Year, had a golden opportunity when he surged into the box and had only Hayashi to beat but his shot went wide.
In the last minute of extra-time first half, Kum-il's header went straight to goalkeeper Hayashi.
Regarding the penalty shootout, DPR coach Jo said: "We saw the Korea Republic-Japan semifinal, which was stretched to penalties. In that match Korea Republic made many mistakes and I told my players not to do those mistakes."
Japan coach Yasushi Yoshida said: "I am disappointed with the loss. We were unlucky for the sixth time. DPR Korea played very well and I accept this result."
"It was difficult for the players to play 120 minutes of football for two consecutive matches. They were very tired towards the end."
Meanwhile, South Korea's Shim Young-sung won the top goalscorer award while the Fair Play trophy went to DPR Korea.