North Korea's World Cup Qualifier Moved to Neutral Venue

North Korea’s World Cup Qualifier Moved to Neutral Venue

North Korea’s home World Cup qualifier against Japan on Tuesday will be held at a neutral venue, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced. The decision comes just four days before the scheduled match, leaving little time to find an alternative location.

The AFC confirmed that the game will still take place as planned on Tuesday, but did not disclose the reason for the change in venue. However, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that North Korea expressed concerns over bacterial infections in Japan.

North Korean officials had initially requested that the match be held in Japan, but the Japanese Football Association (JFA) declined due to the short notice. The JFA also cited security concerns, as Japan’s foreign ministry had warned football fans against traveling to North Korea.

The match in Pyongyang would have been the first game in North Korea for Japan’s men’s team since 2011. It would have also been a rare international football match in North Korea, which has been isolated from the international community due to its nuclear and missile programs.

Despite its isolation, North Korea has qualified for the World Cup twice before. In 1966, they famously beat Italy 1-0 and made it to the quarter-finals. They also qualified in 2010, but were knocked out at the group stage after three defeats.

The change in venue for the World Cup qualifier is the latest setback in relations between Japan and North Korea. The two countries have long been at odds over issues such as Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula during World War II and North Korea’s missile tests.

India Eyes World Cup Qualifying History in Afghanistan Clash

India Eyes World Cup Qualifying History in Afghanistan Clash

India’s football team is gearing up for their crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Afghanistan, with the aim of securing a spot in the third phase of the qualifiers for the first time. Coach Igor Stimac emphasized the team’s determination to win the upcoming games and progress to the next round.

India will face Afghanistan in back-to-back matches as part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers round 2. The first match will be held in Abha, Saudi Arabia on March 21, while the second will take place in Guwahati, India on March 26.

Stimac acknowledged the team’s disappointing performance at the AFC Asian Cup in January, but stressed that their focus is now on the upcoming qualifiers. “We are not a club that can work with the players on a daily basis,” he said. “The expectations were high without any base.”

India currently stands level on three points with Kuwait in Group A, but has an inferior goal difference. A top-two finish in their group will guarantee progression to Round 3 of the qualifiers, which will also ensure direct qualification for the AFC Asian Cup 2027.

Stimac highlighted the challenges of playing in Abha, which is located at a high altitude of 2,270 meters. “Afghanistan did everything to make it difficult for us,” he said. “Choosing Abha as their home venue was a clever decision.”

Despite the challenges, Stimac expressed confidence in his team’s ability to overcome the obstacles and secure a positive result. “We are going there with a clear mindset, and we’re looking for the points,” he said. “Most of our boys are in decent form at their clubs, and hopefully we can overcome all difficulties and find a way to manage the game in a positive way.”

The Indian team is set to travel to Abha on a chartered plane for their first match against Afghanistan. Stimac believes that the team has the potential to make history by reaching Round 3 of the qualifiers for the first time. “They all have the same dream, so we don’t need to inject any motivation into them,” he said. “We have never made it to Round 3 before, and if we do that, it will then give them new dreams, to qualify for the World Cup in the future.”

Odisha FC's AFC Cup Journey Ends with Goalless Draw

Odisha FC’s AFC Cup Journey Ends with Goalless Draw

Indian Super League club Odisha FC’s hopes of reaching the Inter-Zone final of the AFC Cup were dashed after a goalless draw in the home leg against Australia’s Central Coast Mariners in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

Having lost the first leg 4-0 to the A-League side, Odisha FC needed a remarkable comeback to progress. However, they failed to capitalize on the home advantage and conceded the tie 0-4 on aggregate.

The Mariners, who traveled to India with a comfortable cushion, started brightly. Ronald Barcellos and Angel Torres had early chances but were denied by Odisha goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.

Central Coast was awarded a penalty in the first half when Ryan Edmondson was brought down by Carlos Delgado. However, Mikael Doka’s spot-kick was saved by Amrinder.

The visitors continued to control possession but lacked the dominance they displayed in the first leg. Odisha defender Mourtada Fall cleared Max Balard’s free-kick under pressure from Edmondson, while the Englishman missed a volley in a promising position.

In the final quarter, Christian Theoharous had a shot saved by Amrinder, and Miguel Di Pizio’s late effort was deflected wide.

Odisha FC’s elimination from the AFC Cup marks a disappointing end to their continental campaign. The Indian club had reached the group stage for the first time this season but failed to make a significant impact.

AFC Demands Evidence in Corruption Allegations Against AIFF President

AFC Demands Evidence in Corruption Allegations Against AIFF President

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has taken cognizance of the corruption allegations leveled against All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Kalyan Chaubey by the organization’s former legal head, Nilanjan Bhattacharjee. The AFC has requested Bhattacharjee to submit a detailed written report outlining his allegations and supporting evidence by March 18, 2024.

Bhattacharjee, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accused Chaubey of involvement in non-transparent tender processes and attempts to misappropriate federation funds for personal expenses. Chaubey has vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “baseless” and accusing Bhattacharjee of attempting to damage his reputation.

The AFC’s intervention highlights the seriousness of the allegations and the potential impact on Indian football’s reputation. Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia has also weighed in, calling for Chaubey’s resignation and new elections to clean up the AIFF administration.

Bhattacharjee has remained steadfast in his position, claiming that he refused to sign a “lopsided” agreement with Indigo Airlines during his tenure, which would have provided a minimum guarantee of Rs 7 crore for content creation rights without any incentive for Indian football.

Chaubey has provided a point-by-point rebuttal to Bhattacharjee’s allegations, but Bhattacharjee has vowed to submit all his evidence to the AFC. He has also invited others concerned about Indian football to share any information they may have.

The AFC’s investigation could have significant consequences for Indian football. If the allegations are substantiated, it could lead to sanctions against the AIFF and damage the reputation of the sport in the country. The outcome of the investigation will be closely watched by all stakeholders in Indian football.

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