North Korea 1-1 Kuwait
17/02/12, Changsha, China
Scorers: TBC (North Korea), Al Rashidi (Kuwait)
North Korea played out a 1-1 draw with Kuwait to retain the Unofficial Football World Championships title. The North Koreans had led for much of the game, but Kuwait grabbed a late equaliser, despite being reduced to ten men.
North Korea went into the match as UFWC champions having ended the long run of Japan with a 1-0 win back in November. This was the North Koreans’ first attempt at retaining the title. It was Kuwait’s first ever UFWC title match.
Although North Korea went into the match as champions, Kuwait went in as favourites. The North Koreans had only beaten Kuwait once previously in the last 20 years, and that was on penalties. The last meeting between the two sides, in August 2011, finished as a goalless draw. Kuwait had won the previous match, in December 2010, 2-1. Kuwait are ranked slightly higher than North Korea by FIFA – 91st compared to 106th.
The unusual venue, Changsha in China, was the location of Kuwait’s training camp ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier against South Korea at the end of the month. This was a warm up ‘friendly’.
Despite being underdogs, North Korea struck first in this match, netting within the first 20 minutes. Kuwait were a goal down, and things immediately got worse for them with Fahad Al Ansari being sent off.
The North Koreans led 1-0 at half-time, but the ten-man Kuwaitis managed to prevent them extending their lead. With just five minutes left to play, Kuwait grabbed a late equaliser through Fahad Al Rashidi, the Al Arabi midfielder. The match ended 1-1.
So North Korea retain the UFWC title. The next title match sees the champions travel to Tajikistan for a dead rubber World Cup Qualifier on 29 February. Neither North Korea or Tajikistan can qualify for the 2014 World Cup tournament, so the UFWC title will be the only honour at stake. Tajikistan will be hoping the match goes a little better than their last two UFWC title matches, which they lost to Japan 8-0 and 4-0. It’s probably fair to say that North Korea will be favourites to win.