North Korea to skip Olympic soccer qualifier in South Korea

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North Korea will skip an Olympic women’s soccer qualifying tournament hosted by South Korea in February.

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed a Yonhap News Agency report of North Korea’s withdrawal.

North Korea is ranked 11th in the world, second-highest among Asian nations trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games behind No. 7 Australia. Two nations will qualify via Asia to join Japan, ranked 10th and automatically qualified for the Olympics as host nation.

North Korea would have been scheduled to play South Korea on the South Korean island of Jeju at the Olympic qualifier.

Women’s soccer is the only team sport where North Korea fielded a squad at recent Olympics, doing so in 2008 and 2012. It earned one win at each of those Games and lost 1-0 to the U.S. in London.

In 2017, North Korea competed at a lower-level women’s ice hockey world championship in South Korea. Ten months later, North Korean players were added to the South Korean team at the PyeongChang Olympics. The two nations also marched together at the Opening Ceremony under a unified Korea flag.

“Talks about having another joint march and fielding more unified teams at the Tokyo Olympics have all but died,” according to Yonhap.

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