Malaysia to play Asian Cup qualifiers vs. North Korea in Thailand
Malaysia will face North Korea in a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying double header in Thailand next month after the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) agreed to host the two games following previous postponements.
Strained diplomatic relations between the countries, and security concerns, had seen Malaysia's Group B match in North Korea postponed three times. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) agreed that there was no other option but to play the games on neutral territory.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) had requested Thailand as the venue and the consent of the FAT means that the two group games will be played in Thailand on Nov. 10 and Nov. 13.
The first match has been designated as the home fixture of the North Koreans, while the return on Nov. 13 is considered a home game for Malaysia.
The venues and kickoff times have yet to be confirmed. But FAM officials are likely to be delighted with the outcome as Thailand offers a short trip and a familiar climate.
AFC General Secretary Windsor John expressed his gratitude to the FAT for ensuring that the fixtures can be played in a mutually agreed location.
"We are extremely grateful for the continued support by the Football Association of Thailand in agreeing to play host for these two matches," Windsor John told the-AFC.com.
"The FA of Thailand has ensured that the AFC has been able to maintain the sporting integrity of the AFC Asian Cup qualifying."
Malaysia sit bottom of Group B on one point from three games, but two positive results against the North Koreans would put them back into contention for a place at the tournament finals in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
The qualifying campaign of Harimau Malaya ends with a tricky trip to group leaders Lebanon early in 2018, so it is likely that they will need to take at least four points from the two fixtures in Thailand to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top two, ahead of the North Koreans and Hong Kong.
However, their recent form is against them, with new coach Nelo Vingada having overseen four defeats and one fortuitous draw in his five games in charge.
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