Sat, 13 April 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

Football: North Korea loses 1-0 to Japan, cancels next game

Update : 22 Mar 2024, 11:01

North Korea has reportedly canceled a football World Cup qualifier game it was hosting with former colonizer Japan, after losing to its eastern neighbor on Thursday.

Japan beat North Korea 1-0 in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. The game was held in Tokyo.

What did Pyongyang say?

After the game, the head of Japan's football association, Kozo Tashima, told Tokyo-based Kyodo news that Pyongyang canceled next Tuesday's qualifier, which was scheduled to be held in the North Korean capital.

North Korea was concerned by "a malignant infectious disease" in Japan, an apparent reference to rising cases of streptococcus infections, Kyodo said.

Tashima told Kyodo that North Korean officials had asked him during half time whether Japan could host Tuesday's match instead, but that he had replied that he was not sure at such short notice. The game is likely to either be rescheduled or relocated or both. 

Japan won Thursday's game after midfielder Ao Tanaka scored soon after the kickoff, with the side maintaining its 1-0 lead for the remainder of the game.

North Korea was cheered by a small group of red-shirted fans in the Tokyo stadium.

"We wanted to give our fans a good result and we are sorry we could not but it was a good game," North Korea coach Sin Yong Nam said.

Asia's automatic allocation at the World Cup has increased from four to eight teams.

North Korea had not hosted a men's international football match since 2019, before the COVID pandemic. It pulled out of the qualification process for the 2022 World Cup citing concerns about the pandemic. But even during more normal times, it was not uncommon for North Korea to play some of its home games in other countries.  

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