The Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Friday that both home and away matches between North Korea and Malaysia in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers will be played at a neutral venue.
North Korea’s home match has been postponed thrice after the murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.
A venue has not been specified yet, though, AFC General secretary Windsor John told AFP that they are looking at China and Southeast Asian countries to host the games.
Finally, an agreement
North Korea’s home match was originally scheduled to be played on March 28, but due to safety and security concerns, it was rescheduled to June 8, and then to October 10.
However, in September, the AFC decided to postpone the match for a third time after Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel ban on its citizens visiting North Korea.
Now, the AFC has announced that North Korea’s home match will take place on November 10 with the return fixture occurring three days later, both at the same neutral venue.
“We are pleased that the two Member Associations, after much discussion, have been agreeable to this arrangement. Playing the games in this way, and in this order, helps us protect the sporting principles of the Asian Cup final qualifying round,” said Windsor John.
Malaysia bottom of Group B
Malaysia are currently bottom of the Group B of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification, which they share with Lebanon, Hong Kong and North Korea.
The Malayan Tigers opened their campaign with a 1-2 loss to Lebanon on June 13, a draw against Hong Kong 1-1 on September 5 in Malacca and then a defeat against Hong Kong on October 10 at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Currently, Lebanon are at the top of the group with 10 points, followed by Hong Kong with five and North Korea with two. Malaysia occupies the bottom position with a single point.
The two top teams of the group will qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, scheduled to be held in the United Arab Emirates from January 5 to February 1, 2019.