North Korea vs Sweden
23 January 2013
King’s Cup
700th Anniversary Stadium, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The 2013 Unofficial Football World Championships campaign gets underway this week as current UFWC champions North Korea arrive in Thailand to participate in the annual King’s Cup tournament. We’re guaranteed two UFWC title matches here, and the format of the tournament means that whichever team wins the King’s Cup will also be Unofficial Football World Champions.

Sweden, Finland, and hosts Thailand are the other participants in the four-team knockout competition. Two semi finals will be played this Wednesday 23 January, with a third-place match and the final taking place on Saturday 26. All four of the tournament’s matches will be played at the 700th Anniversary Stadium, the 25,000-capacity home ground of Chiangmai FC, in Chaing Mai, northern Thailand.

The first semi final is a UFWC title match, as defending champions North Korea take on challengers Sweden. North Korea have made 12 consecutive defences of their UFWC title since taking it from Japan in November 2011, but Sweden will be the first European challenger they have faced. The last time the Chollima played a European team was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when they lost 7-0 to Portugal.

Sweden were last UFWC champions in 2008, and have a very good record in the competition. The Swedes are 9th in the all-time rankings table with 26 UFWC title match victories. Notable wins include a brave triumph over Germany in 1942, and the famous 10-0 win over Norway in 1945, in which the great Gunnar Nordahl scored four goals. Nordahl is the UFWC’s all-time top goalscorer.

The Swedish King’s Cup squad is made up of domestic-based players, and players from other leagues that are on winter breaks. So several unfamiliar faces are likely to make their debuts, and Sweden will be without star players such as Ibrahimović and company.

Brilliantly, Sweden coach Erik Hamrén is fully aware that his side has the chance to become Unofficial Football World Champions, after the UFWC was explained to him at a press conference. ‘I always want to win games, and it would be good to be called the unofficial world champions,’ he said. ‘That will be an additional motivating factor. We want to have a good performance, and would love to win against North Korea. If that means that we’re world champions, I’ll be very happy.’

If Sweden were fielding their strongest team, they would undoubtedly be strong favourites to end North Korea’s UFWC reign. They’re unbeaten in five matches, and have recently drawn with Germany and beaten England. However, North Korea are unbeaten in 13, and regular UFWC watchers will know that they can be a formidable opponent. Sweden are ranked 20th in the world by FIFA, while North Korea are 99th.

The winner of the North Korea versus Sweden semi final will be Unofficial Football World Champions, and will take the UFWC title into Saturday’s final against either Finland or Thailand. Finland last participated in the UFWC in 2008, losing to then-champions Greece, and have never held the unofficial title. Thailand have never participated in the UFWC. Finland and Thailand are ranked 83rd and 136th in the world respectively by FIFA.

Can Sweden’s young players end North Korea’s imperious run as UFWC champions? It’s difficult to predict, but it should certainly be an interesting contest. North Korea have been worthy champions, but the intervention of Sweden could take the title in an exciting new direction. (Of course, Finland and Thailand could also have a say in where the title ends up.)

Certainly, North Korea versus Sweden is one of the most hotly-anticipated UFWC title matches in recent memory. The match kicks off at 1600 local time (0900 GMT, 1000 CET). TV viewers in Sweden can watch the match live on TV4 Sport.

We’ll have coverage of North Korea vs Sweden on Wednesday, and then North Korea or Sweden versus Finland or Thailand on Saturday, right here. Watch this space and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

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About Paul Brown

Paul is a freelance journalist and author. He created the UFWC in 2003, and subsequently wrote the Unofficial Football World Champions book. He can be found on Twitter @paulbrownUK.

8 thoughts on “North Korea vs Sweden, King’s Cup 2013 Preview

  1. Eric

    I’m excited to see another UFWC defense, but I was under the impression that, for the purposes of the UFWC, only matches in which two full-strength sides meet are considered.

    With Sweden limited to domestic players, and without the services of players such as Ibra, can this really be considered a full-strength team they are fielding? If this were a more serious international tournament, this team would have a very different complexion.

  2. Hamish

    As I understand it any game classified as an “A” international by FIFA counts. Quite a few of these games involve less than full strength teams by one or both sides. For example the recent Australian team at the East Asian Qualifying round, including for the UFWC match against North Korea , was made up from Australian domestic and asian league players only. Most of Australia’s big names were missing. Many friendlies involve experimental teams to try out fringe players but are also “A” internationals. I expect that many UFWC games have involved less than full strength teams, unless they were world cup or major regional championships, such as the European Nations Cup. Even some qualifying games for these competitions may involve less than full strength teams. In some of the qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup Australia fielded domestic platers as the dates were not FIFA dates. It is the inclusion of such games that gives UFWC its unique flavour.

  3. Eric

    This match was not considered an A international by FIFA, though. So unless UFWC is ignoring its own rules, it doesn’t count.

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