Despite a fair share of international exposure at various FIFA competitions in recent years, Korea DPR are still an unknown quantity agt senior level in Asia. However, more than 40 percent of FIFA.com users have picked the men from Korea DPR in an ongoing poll as the team to most likely to cause an upset in the Preliminary Competition for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, which is an indication of how long the memory of their memorable campaign at England 1966 has lasted.
It is probably too soon to predict how the minnows will fare in the qualifying rounds, but with the kick-off drawing near FIFA.com takes a look at Wednesday's four games in the Middle East involving the continent's relatively unknown sides.
Koreans out for revenge
Jordan-Korea DPR, Amman, 6 February, 17:00(local time)
The hosts have a fond memory of this tie, as they defeated the Koreans 3-0 at home in a qualifier for the 2004 AFC Asian Cup. However, it would be unwise to underestimate their opponents if Nelo Vingada's men are to avoid an upset in this all-important group opener. Much will depend on the form of Jordan's veteran striker Mahmoud Shelbaieh, who has scored three goals in as many qualifying campaigns for the FIFA World Cup.
After their early exit from the King's Cup in Thailand last December, Korea DPR have bolstered their squad with a trio of foreign-based players: defensive midfielder An Yong Hak was recalled to the national team following his two-year stint in Korea Republic's K-League, while Jong Tae Se and Ryang Yong Gi will bring the experience earned in Japan. Twenty-year-old forward Kim Kum Il, the star of Korea DPR's FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign in Canada, is also likely to earn his first cap in Amman.
The Gulf nations renew their rivilary for the 26th time in this Stage 3 opener. Although the visitors have the upper hand, with a 10-8-7 record, Oman have not lost against Bahrain at home in five meetings since their 3-0 victory over the Islanders in June of 1996. Oman's newly appointed coach Julio Cesar Ribas has made a good start with a 2-0 win against Singapore and a 1-1 draw with Kuwait last month, and will be eager to extend this unbeaten run.
For their part, Bahrain have warmed up fairly well for this encounter with four recent friendlies. They got off to a winning start this year with a 1-0 win over Kuwait, and despite a 2-1 defeat to Syria, Milan Macala's men bounced back immediately with a 2-1 victory over Yemen before beating Denmark 1-0 in Riffa. Friendly results aside, Macala faces a tough task against his former employers in his first return to Muscat since last March.
In another Gulf affair in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates welcome Kuwait to the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium. Although a comprehensive 5-0 win over Vietnam at home in October has earned them a place in the third round, UAE have failed to score a goal since, suffering friendly defeats at the hands of Benin (1-0) and Togo (5-0) in November. Bruno Metsu's charges were also held to a goalless draw with China PR before losing 1-0 at home to Iraq last month. Metsu will be banking on young star Ismail Matar's finishing touch to end the goal drought.
Having received a bye to the third round following Bhutan's withdrawal, Kuwait are eager to make an impact on the continental stage. Coach Radion Gacanin's goal will be to reach the final round of the Preliminary Competition, where the Gulf nation finished bottom of the group three years ago.
The two sides have met twice in qualifiying, in the first stage of the preliminaries for Italy 1990. Kuwait won the first game 3-2 but UAE took the return match 1-0 at home to win the group on goal difference and went on to qualify for the finals.
Uzbeks on a mission
Lebanon-Uzbekistan, Beirut, 6 February, 18:00(local time)
A 6-3 aggregate win over India was enough for Lebanon to clinch a place in the last 20, but they now have to face stronger opponents in the shape of Uzbekistan. In the first-ever meeting between the teams, the Central Asians will be hoping to put an end to their poor run of results in the Middle East. In fact, the Uzbeks have never won a game in the major competitions held there in recent years: the AFC Asian Cup Lebanon 2000 and the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003.
The class of 2003, including star forward Alexander Geynrikh, has grown into the backbone of the current national team, and their five-goal hero Maksim Shatskikh will provide an intriguing matchup against Lebanon's super-sub Mohamad Ghaddar, who came off the bench to score braces in both legs against India.