North Korea 1-1 Australia
5 December 2012
EAFF East Asian Cup Semi Final Competition
Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
Scorers: Thompson, An Yong-Hak
North Korea retained the UFWC title with this unspectacular draw against a disappointing Australia team in Hong Kong today. The Chollima have been Unofficial Football World Champions since November 2011, when they took the UFWC title from Japan. Australia’s Socceroos have held the title once, in 1992 when they defeated then-champs the USA, but were unable to topple the Chollima.
Today’s match, part of the EAFF East Asian Cup Semi Final Competition, was played at the Hong Kong Stadium, also known as the So Kon Po Stadium. The winner of this league-format semi final competition will progress to the EAFF East Asian Cup Finals alongside Japan, China and hosts South Korea. It now seems a good bet that the winner will be North Korea.
Socceroos fans had been disappointed with Monday’s narrow win over Hong Kong, courtesy of a late Brett Emerton goal. And they were wary ahead of this match against high-flying North Korea, with coach Holger Osieck selecting a defensive-looking line-up, and leaving teenage star Tom Rogic on the bench. However, it soon became clear that the Socceroos were not intending to sit back and defend.
Early pressure saw Archie Thompson get on the end of an Emerton cross, but Thompson’s header was turned away by the keeper. However, from the resulting corner, Mark Milligan’s header was blocked, and Thompson knocked home the rebound. 1-0 Australia.
The Chollima fought back, and began to put pressure on the Socceroos, but struggled to create any real clear cut chances. Korea’s frustration was demonstrated when coach Yun Jong-Su withdrew An Il-Bom after just 23 minutes, despite the young striker having scored in both previous matches for his country.
20-year-old Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan was forced into making a couple of saves, but there were no further goals in the first 45 minutes, and Australia held the advantage at half-time.
The second half saw North Korea again press Australia, but again fail to create many goal-scoring chances. Then, in the 64th minute, a fluffed clearance from the Australian defence allowed Korean midfielder An Yong-Hak to score an equaliser. 1-1, and the Chollima had their hands back on the UFWC trophy.
Osieck immediately introduced Rogic in an attempt to spark the Socceroos back into life. That seemed a big ask for the 19-year-old, although he did impress with some clever touches. As the clock ran down, Osieck introduced another 19-year-old striker, Adam Taggart, with goalscorer Thompson the man replaced. Rogic and Taggart almost combined to match-winning effect, but Taggart failed to convert Rogic’s cross.
As the game approached its conclusion, both sides were visibly tired. North Korea had played three games in six days, and Australia two in four. Oddly, rather than introduce three sets of fresh legs, Chollima coach Yun Jong-Su subbed his substitute, and then subbed his substitute again…
Despite their tired legs, though, North Korea held on, despite a couple of late Australian chances, to draw 1-1 and retain the UFWC title. Socceroos fans voiced their disappointment after the game, and it was a pretty poor performance, but recent UFWC history has shown that a draw with North Korea is not a bad result.
The next UFWC title match is on Sunday, when North Korea take on hosts Hong Kong in the last round of the semi final competition. Kick off is 2.20pm local time (GMT+8). Hong Kong have never participated in the UFWC, and North Korea should certainly be favourites. But the Chollima looked very weary today. Can they recover and retain the UFWC title? Or will Hong Kong seize the chance to become Unofficial Football World Champions?