Malaysia to play Asian Cup qualifiers vs. North Korea on neutral soil

Malaysia will play both their AFC Asian Cup qualifying matches against North Korea on neutral territory, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed on Friday.

Their three-time rescheduled game in Pyongyang will now take place on Nov. 10 at a yet-to-be-announced neutral venue. The same stadium will host Malaysia's "home" match against the North Koreans on Nov. 13.

"We are pleased that the two member associations, after much discussion, have been agreeable to this arrangement," AFC general-secretary Datuk Windsor John Paul said through a statement.

"Playing the games in this way, and in this order, helps us protect the sporting principles of the Asian Cup final qualifying round."

Malaysia were originally due to play North Korea in their Group B opener on March 28 under previous coach Ong Kim Swee.

After being postponed, it was scheduled for June 8 and then Oct. 5, but never went ahead, due to security concerns and rising political tensions between the two nations.

This stemmed from the death of the half-brother of North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

The most recent match was called off after Malaysian authorities issued a travel ban on its citizens travelling to the Republic. This was despite the AFC ruling that Pyongyang was a safe venue, having successfully staged qualifier against Lebanon in September.

Malaysia head coach Nelo Vingada will be on a mission to get victories from both games to stay alive in the qualifiers.

However, the Harimau Malaya are bottom of the group with a solitary point after two losses and a draw.

Ex-Portugal and Saudi Arabia boss Vingada also lost two friendly matches to leave him winless after five games in charge, forcing FAM boss TMJ to give him a vote of confidence.

Malaysia's poor record away from home will be against them when they face up to North Korea twice next month, possibly in China.