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By ESPN Staff

Two Koreas to play in China under FIFA mediation

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's World Cup qualifier at North Korea was moved to China after the North Koreans balked at playing their neighbor's anthem before the game.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, announced the decision Friday and said it was made "in the best interests of football." The match will be played on its scheduled date, March 26, in Shanghai rather than the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

"This decision guarantees ... the confederation's flag and the national flags of both participating member associations shall be flown inside the stadium," FIFA said.

In recent years, the two Koreas have displayed the blue and white "unification flag" and used the traditional song "Arirang" at exhibition sports events. Both sides marched together under the unification flag at several major international sports events following the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The North had insisted the sides do the same in Pyongyang, while the South argued that FIFA's rules be followed. FIFA requires that the flags of both nations be displayed and that both anthems be played.

The two Koreas are grouped with Turkmenistan and Jordan in the third round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. In opening matches, South Korea beat Turkmenistan 4-0 and North Korea defeated Jordan 1-0.