N Korea prepares for World Cup qualifier

Updated: 25 February 2007 09:48 IST

North Korea arrived in Japan on Monday to prepare for their World Cup qualifier at Saitama stadium on Wednesday.

N Korea prepares for World Cup qualifier

Tokyo:

North Korea arrived in Japan on Monday to prepare for their World Cup qualifier at Saitama stadium on Wednesday. The North's national team is playing for the first time on the international stage since 1994. The team is in Group 2 with Iran, Bahrain and Japan. Group 1 includes Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Kuwait. The top two from each group qualify directly for the finals in Germany next year. Political cloud Tight security and bouquets greeted North Korea's soccer team when they arrived in Japan amid concerns that a diplomatic feud might spill over into sports. Relations between the two nations have long been strained because of Japan's often brutal colonisation of the Korean peninsula. These were further tested by recent North Korean admissions that it kidnapped Japanese citizens decades ago to train as spies. With tensions high, around 3,500 police and security officials are being mobilised for Wednesday's match. North Korean coach Yun Jong-su declined to announce his line-up for the much-awaited match and didn't make any predictions about the outcome. "We've had a lot of training over the past several weeks and are eager to show what we can do against Japan," said Yun Jong-su. Focus on soccer Government officials have urged the Japanese public to stay calm and focus on soccer rather than politics. Even so, the authorities are mobilising ample security to assure a safe game Precautions will include a buffer zone of empty seats in the Saitama stadium to keep an expected crowd of several thousand North Korean supporters apart from the Japanese fans. North Korea will be playing Japan for the first time since a 3-0 defeat in a qualifier in Doha for the 1994 World Cup. (AP)

Topics : Football
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