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North Korea wants to postpone second leg against Japan

The World Cup qualifier between North Korea and Japan is highly charged – and not just from a sporting perspective

The explosive qualifying match for the 2026 World Cup between North Korea and Japan in Pyongyang will probably have to be postponed. As the head of the Japanese FA, Kozo Tashima, announced just a few hours after Japan’s 1-0 first-leg victory in Tokyo, the North Korean side had requested a relocation of the second leg on March 26 during the match.

The North Koreans “told us that the match cannot be played in Pyongyang. They asked us at half-time if we could organize it in Japan,” said Tashima shortly after the success of the Japanese, who lead qualifying Group B with three wins from three games.

Reason for change of heart not known

A spontaneous answer was not possible: “I told them it was too sudden and that I couldn’t promise them immediately. I said it would take us at least two or three days and that it would be difficult.” Tashima did not give a reason for the North Koreans’ change of heart.

The match had already caused a stir in the run-up, with Japan warning its fans against traveling to the game. “As you know, North Korea is hostile to Japan and travel is not recommended for the general public,” the Foreign Ministry wrote on X. There was no travel ban, although the two countries do not have diplomatic relations. It was unclear how many fans would even attempt to travel. It would have been the first meeting between the teams in North Korea since 2011.



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