​The very best of the non-FIFA world meet at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium on Saturday evening, as Northern Cyprus and Karpatalja face off in the CONIFA World Football Cup final, the culmination of a packed tournament which has seen each of its 16 teams play six games in ten days. 


The tournament, a de facto World Cup for non FIFA affiliated international teams, has been played across London over the last week and a half, culminating in Saturday's final - which will be immediately preceded by the third place playoff between Padania and Szekely Land. 


The Road to the Final


Both teams qualified for the knockout stages through Group B, sharing a 1-1 draw at Enfield on their way to knocking out reigning champions Abkhazia - thanks largely to Karpatalja's 2-0 win over the 2016 winners. 

Northern Cyprus then faced controversial hosts Barawa, whose progression to the knockout rounds was the subject of a protest which ultimately led to Ellan Vannin withdrawing from the tournament. The Cypriot side's 8-0 win ended concerns of any further issues pretty effectively. 


Goals in the last 10 minutes from Halil Turan and Billy Mehmet saw last year's European Football Cup runners-up come from 2-1 down to win a dramatic semi-final against Italian side Padania, Northern Cyprus' opponents in last year's European final and the only side to have progressed to the last four with a 100% record.


Karpatalja, on the other hand, faced no such drama. They were cruising at 2-0 against Cascadia before a late Hamzi Haddadi strike set a couple of nerves jangling - but Zsolt Gajdos made the game safe from the penalty spot with a couple of minutes remaining. 

An all-Hungarian semi-final against Szekely Land was blown apart thanks to goals either side of half-time from György Toma, with Gergő Gyürki making their spot in the final safe despite a late push from last year's European bronze medalists. 


Key Men


Northern Cyprus


It's hard to single out a member of the Northern Cyprus side, but striker Billy Mehmet is the man who the Karpataljans will be putting their defensive focus on. 


The former ​West Ham youth product can be profligate in front of goal, but that didn't stop him from scoring twice against Padania and bagging the Cypriots' only goal of the game the last time these two met, in the group stage. 

Karpatalja


Consider throwing in some cliche about a well-organised unit being the standout if you're pressed, but otherwise? István Sándor. The 32-year-old player-manager marshals the midfield effectively, and has two goals to his name - including the equaliser against Northern Cyprus in the group stage. 


Where to Watch


Get to the stadium, you scabs - it's £12 a ticket for an actual world final, and kids' tickets are half that. If you insist on being at home though, it will be ​streamed live here


What They Say


Northern Cyprus FA's vice-president: "We are at the top of the CONIFA rankings, so we're used to it. It's a pleasure to be in the final. It's an honour to represent our country and to show our football." 


"Karpatalja is a good team, we respect them. They have some professional players."


Northern Cyprus defener Necati Gench: [The support from] the Turkish Cypriot community has been fantastic. The amount of people who came and showed us support has surpassed our expectations, and they've been a major part in us getting to the final. The final 15 minutes [coming from 2-1 down against Padania], they helped us over the line."


Prediction


Hahahahah, are you kidding? The last three CONIFA finals (2x World Football Cup, 1x European Football Cup) have gone to penalties. This tournament has been a parade of minor and major upsets, and Karpatalja weren't even going to be at the tournament until Felvidek had to pull out

CONIFA

And yet, even saying 'so...it'll go to penalties?' feels like a cop-out - and not even an accurate one. There have been seven shootouts in the last two tournaments combined (in the main draw, not the placement matches) - but none so far in this one. The trend seems to have been bucked, but good luck figuring out who's walking away with the trophy.