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Book returns to international sports stage

North Korea is making a comeback. It is expected to use sports as a medium for inter-Korean communication.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed North Korea’s intention to participate in the Asian secondary qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Monday.

It will be North Korea’s first participation in a World Cup organized by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) since November 2019. North Korea participated in the Asian secondary qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where they finished in Group H alongside South Korea. In October 2019, the two Koreas were set to meet in Pyongyang, North Korea, but the country pulled out of the tournament in April 2021 to protect its players amid the COVID-19 pandemic.메이저사이트

At the time, North Korea was fourth in Group H with two wins, two draws and one loss in five matches. North Korea was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for unauthorized attendance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so a similar punishment was expected for the World Cup, but the AFC denied any involvement.

North Korea has been drawn in Group B alongside Japan, Syria and the winner of the first leg between Myanmar and Macau in the draw for the second qualifying round of the tournament, which is based on FIFA rankings in Asia (1-26). If North Korea advances through the second round, it will be the first team to reach the knockout stage since South Africa 2010.

Beginning with the 2026 World Cup, FIFA expanded the size of the tournament from 32 to 48 nations. The number of tickets allocated to Asia has also been increased from 4.5 to 8.5, meaning that North Korea can compete for a spot. This could lead to some interesting matchups, such as a matchup with the United States, which North Korea considers its nemesis. North Korea’s first game in the second round of World Cup qualifying will be at home against Syria on Nov. 16. It will be the first time North Korea has hosted a foreign team since COVID-19.

North Korea resumed shipments of goods in September last year, but has been reluctant to engage in people-to-people exchanges, other than hosting Chinese and Russian dignitaries last month to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice.

However, North Korea’s willingness to open up on the sports stage is clear. It has announced its intention to participate in the Hangzhou Asian Games, which begin in September, earlier than the World Cup’s second Asian qualifying round.

North Korea will send about 200 athletes, coaches, and officials to the Asian Games, including seven athletes in judo, an event it hopes to win gold in.

North Korea is also expected to send a large contingent to the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) World Championships in Kazakhstan on Sept. 19.

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