The much anticipated UFWC title match between Iran and North Korea has been cancelled, FIFA has confirmed. The friendly match had been due to take place in Tehran on Tuesday 9 October. It was cancelled at the request of Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, with the aim of protecting his injury-hit squad ahead of a crucial World Cup Qualifier against South Korea.
Where does that leave the UFWC? Well, obviously North Korea are still Unofficial Football World Champions, and we won’t have to wait too much longer to see them attempt to defend their title. The Chollima will participate in the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) Cup, which kicks off on 24 October.
The VFF Cup is a four-team round robin tournament featuring North Korea, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and an Iran under-23 team. North Korea’s first VFF Cup match is against this Iranian team, but as Iran is not fielding its ‘A’ team, this is not a FIFA ‘A’ match, and therefore is not a UFWC title match. North Korea subsequently play Turkmenistan on 26 October, and this IS a FIFA ‘A’ match, and IS a UFWC title match.
So the next UFWC title match is North Korea vs Turkmenistan, at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, on 26 October. That’s a UFWC rematch, following North Korea’s hard-fought 2-1 win in the AFC Challenge Cup Final in March. There were ‘amazing scenes’ in Nepal as the Chollima came from behind to win the Cup. But the match demonstrated that Turkmenistan will be no pushovers.
Since that defeat in March, Turkmenistan haven’t played any matches, but they have risen from 166th to 125th in FIFA’s world rankings. Still officially classed as an ’emerging’ nation, they have several ’emerging’ stars, including 21-year-old midfielder Arslanmyrat Amanov, and captain Berdy Shamuradov. We’ll be providing a full preview ahead of the match.
If North Korea retain their title, we’ll have another UFWC match to look forward to just two days later, with the champions taking on Vietnam in the last VFF Cup match. But if Turkmenistan win they’ll take the title, and we may have to wait until March 2013 for their next scheduled fixture, against Armenia. That’s all part of the excitement and uncertainty involved with following the UFWC.
So it’s not quite the ‘megaclash’ we had hoped for, but, as anyone who followed the AFC Challenge Cup Final knows, North Korea vs Turkmenistan will not be a match to miss. We’ll be building up to the match here, and, of course, providing full coverage.