North Korea to forfeit next home WCQ after Japan loss

North Korea have reportedly cancelled hosting Japan in a World Cup qualifier just hours after losing to the same opposition in Tokyo.

The Samurai Blue scored after just 90 seconds on Thursday night and held out to maintain their perfect start in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

Soon after, Japan Football Association chief Kozo Tashima told Kyodo News that North Korea scrapped the scheduled qualifier against Japan on Tuesday in Pyongyang, giving the news in a letter to the Asian Football Confederation.

North Korea were concerned by "a malignant infectious disease" in Japan, an apparent reference to rising cases of streptococcus infections, Kyodo said.

Midfielder Ao Tanaka's strike from inside a crowded penalty area at the National Stadium gave the hosts three wins from three Group B games.

North Korea have three points from as many matches to be one point behind Syria, but ahead of Myanmar (one).

"We wanted to give our fans a good result and we are sorry we could not but it was a good game," North Korea coach Sin Yong Nam said.

South Korea were held by Thailand to 1-1 in Seoul in their first game since Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as the coach in February.

Son Heung-min.
South Korea's Son Heung-min attempts a shot against Thailand. (AP PHOTO)

Son Heung-min put the home side ahead after 42 minutes with a shot from close range before Suphanat Mueanta levelled just after an hour.

"There's no getting around the fact that it was a disappointing result but there were positives to take from the game," Tottenham star Son said.

Despite the draw, South Korea remain on top of Group C with seven points ahead of Tuesday's game in Bangkok, three above Thailand and China, who drew 2-2 with Singapore (one).

Australia have won all three of their Group I games after defeating Lebanon 2-0 in Sydney.

Keanu Baccus opened the scoring after just five minutes and Kye Rowles added the second shortly after the restart for the Socceroos.

Palestine moved up to second on four points, two ahead of the Lebanese, after their 5-0 thumping of Bangladesh (one).

Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also maintained their perfect records with respective wins over Kuwait, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Yemen.

In Jordan's first action since losing the Asian Cup final to Qatar in February, they beat Pakistan 3-0.

Elsewhere, Bahrain won 5-0 in Nepal while Iran and Indonesia both won at home against Malaysia and Vietnam.

The top two teams from each of the nine groups will advance to the final round. Asia's automatic allocation at the World Cup has increased from four to eight.