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Spurs’ Son happy South Korea “unscathed” in North Korea qualifier

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As expected, North Korea did not broadcast its World Cup second round qualifier against South Korea this week, making for an old school “wait and see” for fans back home in South Korea.

The match ended 0-0 in front of no fans in Pyongyang, with just police in the stands as Heung-Min Son and South Korea kept their group lead over the North Koreans on goal differential.

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Son, the Tottenham Hotspur star, says it was an odd experience. From The Korea Herald:

“The opponents were pretty physical, and we exchanged some terse words,” Son told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. “It might have been their strategy. They played it rough, and they took exception to our own physical play. …. Rather than focusing on the match, we started worrying about trying not to get hurt. It means a lot to have come out unscathed from a match like this.”

The few videos released by journalists show an eerie scene, and South Korea’s status as AFC powers probably played in North Korea’s lack of desire to broadcast a potential home loss. But you have to think that also lived in the home players heads a bit, too.

Seoul unsure if North Korea will air World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korea said Thursday it’s unclear if North Korea will allow a live broadcast when it hosts the South’s national soccer team for a World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang next Tuesday.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said the North has been ignoring South Korean calls for discussions on broadcasting the game live and allowing South Korean spectators to attend.

“There has been no particular progress on the issues of (sending South Korean) cheering squads or providing broadcast coverage, so they won’t be easy,” since there’s only a few days left until the game, said a ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a background briefing to reporters.

The North in recent months has severed virtually all diplomatic activity and cooperation with the rival South amid a standstill in nuclear negotiations with the United States, while ramping up missile tests in an apparent effort to pressure Washington and Seoul.

South Korea’s Korea Football Association said last month it had been informed by the Asian Football Confederation that North Korea will host its Group H game against the South as scheduled.

The game would be the first competitive meeting between the national men’s teams in the North Korean capital, although the North hosted the South for a friendly there in 1990.

During qualification for the 2010 World Cup, North Korea chose to host games against South Korea in Shanghai, refusing to hoist the South Korean flag and play the South Korean anthem on its soil.

But South Korea’s women’s team played in Pyongyang in an Asian Cup qualifier in 2017, and North Korean TV broadcast an edited version of the game days later.

Mongolia, North Korea picks up wins in World Cup qualifying

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Mongolia and North Korea both started the second round of Asian World Cup qualifying with wins on Thursday.

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Mongolia, ranked 187th in the world and playing in the second round of qualifying for the first time, beat Myanmar 1-0 in Ulaanbaatar. Amaraa Dulguun scored the lone goal in the 17th minute of the Group F match. It’s only Mongolia’s second World Cup qualifying win overall, having won a first round first-leg match in 2011 (for the 2014 World Cup), before losing the second leg, 2-0 to Myanmar. This time, payback was on the cards.

North Korea defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Group H with Jong Il Gwan scoring both goals in Pyongyang.

The winner of each of the eight groups and the four best second-place teams will advance to the next round.

2 Koreas move toward meeting in World Cup qualifying

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Before a meeting of the Korean neighbors in the second stage of 2022 World Cup qualifying, North Korea must navigate a potentially tricky opening fixture against Lebanon in Pyongyang on Thursday.

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Forty teams are still active on the road to Qatar but only the eight group winners and four best-placed teams progress to the next stage where Asia’s four automatic places in the World Cup are up for grabs.

South Korea, the favorite in Group H, is scheduled to visit Pyongyang on Oct. 15 in a meeting between two countries technically at war.

“We know that North Korea will be tough at home and have World Cup history but we want to get a good start,” Lebanon coach Liviu Ciobotariu said. “In a group that also has South Korea, every game is vital.”

South Korea, looking for a tenth successive World Cup appearance, sits out the first round of games this week, as do all eight top-ranked teams in Asia, and kicks off against Turkmenistan on Tuesday.

Also Thursday, Turkmenistan takes on Sri Lanka, the world’s 200th ranked team. Unlike South Korea, the South Asians are unlikely to progress to the next stage but there is still much at stake.

After the Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Colombo that killed more than 250 people, first round opponent Macau refused to travel to the island for the return leg of their first-round qualifier in June and forfeited the match. Sri Lanka is keen to show that life has returned to normal.

“Terrorists have attacked many developed countries in the past and this does not affect carrying out the affairs of any sport,” the country’s football federation declared in a statement. “Sri Lanka shall enjoy its right to host the home game in Sri Lanka and every county shall respect each other’s right to host similar games.”

Southeast Asia also has plenty to play for. The biggest crowd this week will likely be in Jakarta as Indonesia takes on rival Malaysia in front of what is expected to be 80,000 fans.

Feelings between the two neighbors can run high. According to reports in Malaysia, Football Association of Malaysia president Hamidin Mohd Amin has requested that an armored personnel carrier be on standby.

“We are not worried about the situation at the stadium itself as there are a lot of security personnel from both Malaysia and Indonesia guarding the perimeter,” Hamidin told local media. “But there is a risk of provocation and chaos en route.”

Thailand hosts Vietnam in the same group while Mongolia plays its first ever game in the second round of World Cup qualifying and faces Myanmar.

Elsewhere, 2022 World Cup host Qatar is placed in Group E and kicks off against Afghanistan. Regardless of how the Asian champion performs, it will not progress to the next stage of World Cup qualification. Qatar is involved as the path to the 2022 World Cup has been combined with qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup which will take place in China.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Korean plan among nine possible bids for 2023 Women’s World Cup

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says nine soccer federations are interested in hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup including South Korea, which could jointly bid with North Korea.

Brazil and South Africa are in the contest, suggesting underused stadiums built to host the 2014 and 2010 World Cups could be picked.

Other contenders are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan and New Zealand.

South Korean officials said this month that FIFA approached them to explore a joint bid with North Korea.

Potential candidates have until April 16 to register to bid, then until Oct. 4 to submit bid books.

FIFA now includes a human rights evaluation when assessing World Cup bidders.

The 37-member FIFA Council will pick the host in March next year.

The next Women’s World Cup is played June 7-July 7 in France.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports