World Cup Qualifying Recap: The Korean Derby

Photo Credit: @FIFAWorldCup on Twitter.

Today in Pyongyang, history was made. Today was the first time that DPR Korea had hosted a competitive match between the two Koreas.

The two nations, still separated by war, have played friendlies in the past. In addition, they have met at the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in recent years in matches played in Japan and China. However, whenever they have faced each other in past World Cup Qualifying matches, the matches have been played outside of North Korea. In the final round of 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying, the matches were played in Qatar. In the final round of 2010 World Cup Qualifying, North Korea was meant to host South Korea as part of the home-away format. On that occasion, however, North Korea refused to allow the South Korean flag and anthem to be flown at their stadium so the match was moved to China.

Today was a step forward. The South Korean and North Korean players could meet on Kim Ilsung Stadium’s pitch, the flags of both nations were displayed, and Aegukga played in Pyongyang.

Here’s a clip of the DPR Korea anthem as well.

Yesterday in our preview, I mentioned the logistics issues and the lack of live broadcast of the match. Well, as you can see in the videos above, there are no spectators as well. The only tickets to this match were distributed to diplomats in the various embassies in North Korea. Those videos above were from Sweden’s ambassador to DPR Korea, Joachim Bergström. Another attendee was Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, who also spoke with officials from the North Korean FA and visited North Korean schools to play football. FIFA issued a statement here about Infantino’s experience in North Korea.

It is clear that the next step forward in this diplomatic exchange via sports will be allowing both sets of fans the chance to watch the match live, whether in person or on TV. No tickets were given to North Korean citizens and requests by the South Korean Unification Ministry to send a South Korean cheering squad were rejected. According to NK News, it is unclear if North Korea will air this match on local broadcast channel KCTV in the coming days (the match North Korea played with Lebanon was shown the next day on KCTV). In addition, it has been reported by Steve Han that according to the South Korean Unification Ministry, the KFA will be given a DVD tomorrow before departing North Korea for Beijing. However, it has not been confirmed yet that the KFA will be allowed to share match footage via social media networks or if that DVD contains the full match replay. We will update you with any further details and match footage shared from the match either here or via our Twitter.

The Match

At this point, we have few details about the match other than the line-up Paulo Bento deployed, substitutions made, and who received yellow cards. First, the lineup was a similar 4-3-3 formation that included more veteran players than the players used against Sri Lanka on Thursday.

This lineup also included one surprise. Bento’s interest in the workrate of Na Sangho persists and he was given the start over red-hot Hwang Heechan. However, Na was hooked at halftime for Hwang, so it could be a sign that the play that Bento wanted to get from Na didn’t show on the pitch. Overall, it’s an experienced lineup and probably represents Bento knowing that the tension of this rivalry match wasn’t the right environment to further test young talents like Paik, Kangin, and Lee Dong-gyeong.

In terms of match updates, we know that Kwon Changhoon replaced Hwang Inbeom in the 65th minute, Kim Shinwook replaced Hwang Uijo in the 79th minute, and that both of our centerbacks received yellow cards. Goals are always few and far between in this rivalry and the match ended in a 0-0 deadlock. Whether or not it was an exciting 0-0 draw is something we’ll have to wait and see. (UPDATE: The match will be broadcasted on KBS if they receive the DVD today in Korea and decide it is suitable for broadcast. The broadcast will be Oct. 17, 5PM KST/4 AM EST. More info on how to watch here.) [Update 2: KBS did deem the DVD unsuitable for broadcast since it was in SD quality. Instead, the KFA hosted a viewing for journalists in the KFA House in Seoul and released an edited highlights clip. When you see the quality on YouTube, you’ll see that it wouldn’t have worked in the 4KHD age of broadcasting in South Korea. Highlights are here.

For now, we know it was a historic day for the two Koreas and our Taegeuk Warriors have completed their mission to Pyongyang still on top of Group H. That’s all we could have hoped for.

About Michael Welch 89 Articles
That Halfie Korean-American who loves football (I mean, soccer).


    • Yeah, it is a shame that North Korea was unable to show good sportsmanship in hosting us for this match. If you read Steve Han’s Twitter, they stranded the team at the airport in customs entry for 4 hours before letting them into Pyongyang around 8 PM the night before the match. Definitely threw off the players to have a late evening practice session. I do hope that the KFA and other AFC nations in this Group H compare experiences and complain to AFC and FIFA about this. Reading the statement, Gianni Infantino was disappointed that no spectators were allowed to watch.

      It was a small step forward but North Korea still has a long way to go and I hope we show them how to host an awesome match when we welcome them for the return leg 4 June 2020.

  1. What a ridiculous display of exhibition. Shame on FIFA and KFA bureaucrats for allowing this propaganda to take place at all. I feel sorry for the South Korean players. It was obvious North Korean players were trying to provoke South Korean players with rough plays and constantly cussing at them throughout the match. I agree with H.M.Son after he came back to England and stated he was just glad no one was seriously injured. I just hope this match can be a life lesson for some of these delusional young people out there who have somehow manipulated into think communism and socialism have some utopian and egalitarian benefits.

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