Iran vs North Korea
9 October 2012, Azadi Stadium, Tehran
It’s a fixture that makes Bayern Munich vs Chelsea look like a game of tiddlywinks. Unofficial Football World Champions North Korea will travel to Iran for a friendly match in October, FIFA has confirmed. As it stands, with no other fixtures on the North Korean calendar, this will be the next UFWC title match. And what a match it looks like being.
This is a clash between two of the “most negatively rated” nations in the world, according to a recent BBC poll. But this is about football, and nothing else. If it is possible to set aside political, security and other issues and concentrate solely on sport, this looks like being a fascinating game between two sides that the majority of football fans rarely get to see. And that makes it pretty much the quintessential UFWC title match.
It’s now two months since North Korea (some say Korea DPR) ploughed a successful path through the AFC Challenge Cup tournament, successfully retaining that trophy and the UFWC title. The Chollima have been unofficial champions since beating Japan in November, and are now unbeaten in eight UFWC title matches. It’s been an impressive showing from coach Yun Jong Su and his players, including the likes of Pak Nam Chol, Ri Kwang Chon and Jong Il Gwang.
Iran sit just outside the top 50 in FIFA’s rankings, way above most of the opponents North Korea have faced in recent matches. But the Persian Stars have only played in one previous UFWC title match – a 2-1 defeat to France way back in 1978.
Team Melli are coached by Carlos Queiroz, the highly-respected former Portugal and Real Madrid manager, who took over in April 2011. The captain is midfielder Javad Nekounam, who plays in Spain for Osasuna. Other Iranian internationals who play their club football outside of their home country include midfielder Ashkan Dejagah of Wolfsburg in Germany and veteran defender Hadi Aghily of Al Arabi in Qatar.
Iran and North Korea have played eight times in the last ten years, and Iran have won seven of those meetings, the other being a draw. That draw, however, was a vital one, ensuring that North Korea qualified for World Cup 2010 ahead of Iran. Two years on, Iran look to have a good chance of ending North Korea’s reign, but North Korea’s recent form shows that it won’t be easy.
So as it stands the next UFWC title match is Iran vs North Korea on 9 October. But that’s still a long way off, and there’s every chance that North Korea could arrange another friendly match before then. Watch this space and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.