Soccer: Buriram to host Malaysia v North Korea Asian Cup qualifiers
HONG KONG (Reuters) - North Korea and Malaysia will play their Asian Cup qualifying matches in Buriram, northeastern Thailand, the Asian Football Confederation has announced, after earlier attempts to stage the matches fell victim to political tensions.
Diplomatic relations between the countries have been strained following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.
In the wake of the killing, Malaysia barred its citizens from travelling to North Korea, which prevented the national team from playing a qualifier originally scheduled for March 28 in Pyongyang.
The teams will now meet twice in four days at the I-Mobile Stadium in Buriram, some 300 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, with the first game on Nov. 10 and the second three days later.
Both sides are struggling in Group B of qualifying for the Asian Cup finals, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
Lebanon lead the group and are on the verge of securing their place at the finals while Hong Kong are in second, three points ahead of North Korea, with Malaysia bottom.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)