Tokyo, May 7, Kyodo/OANA/IRNA -- FIFA has selected Thailand as the neutral country that will host Japan's upcoming World Cup qualifier against North Korea, the Bangkok Post reported on Saturday. According to the report, Football Association of Thailand secretary general Worawi Makudi said soccer's world governing body had faxed the FAT asking whether it would be willing to host the June 8 match and the president of FAT, Vijitr Getkaew gave it the all clear.
FIFA ordered North Korea to play the match in a third country behind closed doors as punishment for crowd trouble that erupted after North Korea lost 2-0 to Iran in Pyongyang. FIFA also cited trouble at North Korea's match against Bahrain on March 25.
Japan's Group B clash with the North Koreans was scheduled to be held in Pyongyang but the report said the neutral venue will be held at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
North Korea's punishment came after North Korean fans, incensed by the late sending-off of Nam Song Chol, showered the pitch with rocks, bottles and chairs at the Iran game.
A mob of thousands stopped the Iranian players from leaving the stadium after the match, requiring police to restore order.
On Friday, a North Korean sports newspaper criticized FIFA's 'unjust' decision to order North Korea to play the match behind closed doors in another country and accused it of favoritism toward the Japanese. However, an official appeal against the decision has not been filed.
A day after FIFA handed down the punishment on April 29, Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi said he hoped the match would be played in Malaysia but not in China, where there has been a recent wave of anti-Japan demonstrations.
The outbreak of violence in Pyongyang in the Iran game had further heightened security fears ahead of Japan's politically charged match against North Korea in the reclusive state's capital.
In a Feb. 9 home match against North Korea, Japan mobilized more than 3,000 police and private security guards at Saitama Stadium, north of Tokyo. The match passed without incident.
The game went ahead amid political tensions between the two countries as public pressure mounted for the Japanese government to slap economic sanctions on North Korea in a bid to force it to come clean on its abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s.
The North has all but blown its chances of making its first World Cup finals appearance since surprisingly reaching the quarterfinals in 1966 after three defeats out of three matches in Group B.
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