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The rarest of World Cup Qualifiers as North Korea faces South Korea

Members of the South Korean football team had to fly to North Korea via Beijing. Credit: AP

There has never been a World Cup Qualifier quite like this. Two nations technically still at war facing one another in a crucial tie, that no-one outside of the stadium will be able to watch.

At 5.30pm local time in Pyongyang, North Korea will host the South for the first time in almost 30 years. The two sides have played one another a number of times in recent decades but always in the South or a third country.

The North’s decision to stage the game is perhaps influenced by the fact that the only time they have beaten their rivals was in 1990 when the two sides last met in Pyongyang.

That game, like tonight’s was not shown on television, South Korean broadcasters had their application to film this evenings encounter rejected.

The North also refused to allow fans from the South to attend and even the team were denied permission to fly directly to the North Korean capital. Instead they had to make a pit stop in Beijing.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is expected to be watching the match. Credit: AP

It’s even uncertain whether local fans will be allowed in to the 50,000 seater Kim Il-Sung stadium for the event. International tourists currently in the country have been told they cannot attend.

But the Korea Times has reported tickets selling for as much as £5 which in the North is the cost of a valuable bag of rice.

This will likely be the first time most of the South Korean squad have travelled to the North.

Among them is Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min who is the captain of the side and has helped steer them to the top of their group following two wins in the second round of their World Cup Qualification Group so far. Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka make up the rest of Group H.

But the North are not without their own star player. They have Juventus under-23 signing Han Kwang-ong.

He is hailed as a product of Kim Jong-un’s investment in the game and it’s reported the 21-year-old will deliver a signed Juventus shirt to his leader.

There are also rumours that Kim Jong Un will be at the game, if that is the case you can guarantee his side will be going all out for victory.

North and South Korea competed in the Winter Olympics under a unification flag. Credit: AP

This game comes at a time of renewed deadlock in peninsula relations. The thaw created by the last year's Winter Olympics when the two nations competed under a unification flag, has frozen back over.

The North’s talks with the United States have stalled and they have refused all dialogue requests from Seoul.

If this single game was to help get talks back on track it would be another victory for sports diplomacy.

But win, lose or draw the result might not be clear for some time.