As announced by the Vietnam Football Federation yesterday, and confirmed by FIFA today, current Unofficial Football World Champions North Korea will not participate in the VFF Cup. North Korea had been fixtured to play Turkmenistan on 26 October and hosts Vietnam on 28 October (plus a non-FIFA accredited match against Iran under-23s). None of these matches will now take place.
The VFF announcement read: “This afternoon (10/10), the organisers officially received written confirmation for the VFF Cup 2012 that the three guest teams will be: Turkmenistan, Laos and South Korea under-23s.” No reason was given for the non-participation of North Korea.
Where does that leave the UFWC? At the moment, we don’t quite know. North Korea are scheduled to participate in the semi-final qualifying stage for the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup. The semi-final stage will be contested as group tournament held in Hong Kong between 1 December and 9 December 2012. Five teams will participate, namely Australia, Chinese Taipei, Guam, hosts Hong Kong, and UFWC champs North Korea. The winner of the group will advance to the final tournament in South Korea in July 2013. China are the current holders of the EAFF East Asian Cup.
The fixtures for the semi-final stage have not yet been announced, so we don’t yet know who North Korea will play first, and therefore who the next UFWC challengers will be. Australia would look to be favourites to win the semi-final stage, although switched-on readers might have spotted that Australia is not in East Asia. Indeed, Australia aren’t members of the EAFF, but were invited to participate as guests.
There is, of course, the possibility that North Korea will arrange another match ahead of the EAFF qualifying stage. We will let you know the identity of the next UFWC challengers as soon as the fixtures are announced. In the meantime, North Korea retain the UFWC title. Assuming there are no new matches arranged before December, they will by then have been Unofficial Football World Champions for more than a full calendar year. Few would have expected that 12 months ago.