The Asian Football Federation has confirmed that North Korea will not be taking part in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. While the exact reason of them pulling out is unknown, some local media reported that Pyongyang had said it would skip the qualifiers over coronavirus fears. Most of the second round of World Cup qualifiers in Qatar was postponed till June due to the pandemic.
“The Asian Football Confederation has today confirmed the withdrawal of the DPR Korea Football Association from the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the AFC said in a statement.
Earlier, the Asian Football Federation had announced that they will change the format of the tournament so that each group of five teams play their matches in one country. South Korea was selected as the venue for Group H matches. North Korea, South Korea, Turkmenistan, Lebanon and Sri Lanka are the teams in Group H.
The decision also means that North Korea will miss out on the 2023 Asian Cup, to be held in China, as qualification for the World Cup and the continental tournament are combined.
North Korea were placed fourth in Group H but were only one point behind table-toppers Turkmenistan. Only the group winners will be going into the third round of qualification, scheduled to start in September, along with the four best runners-up. Pyongyang’s decision comes one month after they announced that they will not be taking part in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
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