COLD WAR DIFFUSED AS NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA ARE GROUPED TOGETHER IN FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING DRAW

COLD WAR DIFFUSED AS NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA ARE GROUPED TOGETHER IN FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING DRAW

In Wednesday’s draw for the Asian qualifying competition for the 2022 World Cup, politically opposed countries of North and South Korea have been grouped together.

Both neighbouring countries are to compete in Group H along with Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka.

The qualifying tournament, to be played on home and away basis, will run from September this year to June next year.

It will be the fourth meeting of the Koreas in World Cup qualifying after they met before the 1990, 1994 and 2010 tournaments.

Both nations remain technically at war but sport has been increasingly used to foster peace on the peninsula.

Joint teams have formed for various events after the countries marched together at the Opening Ceremony of South Korea’s Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. At the 1991 FIFA U-21 championship, the two Koreas were also allowed to present a joint team.

A possible joint bid for the 2032 Summer Olympic Games is also being discussed.

“The important thing is we’ll play them twice, just like all the other teams,” said South Korea’s coach Paolo Bento to Yonhap.

“We’ll prepare for them the best we can.”

Qatar, who automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup as hosts, are also competing in qualification as the process also offers spots at the 2023 Asian Cup in China.

The reigning Asian champions will contest Group E with Bangladesh, Oman, India and Afghanistan.

Group A includes China, Syria, Philippines, Maldives and Guam while Group B features Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait and Nepal.

Fierce rivals Iran and Iraq have been placed together in Group C alongside Bahrain, Hong Kong and Cambodia.

Group D contains Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen and Singapore with Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Mongolia in Group F.

In Group G, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia will lock horns.

All of the group winners and the top four runners-up will qualify for the next round and the Asian Cup.

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