(AFP) – Sep 24, 2009
NANTES, France — North Korea's footballers will play three matches in France in October as part of their build-up to the 2010 World Cup, the Asians' first venture into Europe for 40 years.
The squad will be based near the western city of Nantes from October 5-15, the French organisers Sports Live Agency said.
North Korea, who last qualified for the World Cup in 1966 in England, will take on second division side Nantes at La Roche-sur-Yon on October 9 and the Congo national team on October 13 at Le Mans.
The date for a third game, probably against a French footballer's union side, is being arranged.
The North Koreans secured their place in the 2010 tournament in South Africa with a 0-0 draw away at Saudi Arabia last June.
In 1966, North Korea became many people's second team as they beat mighty Italy on the way to the quarter-finals, where they went out to Portugal 5-3.
But in recent years the team has made little impact on the international stage.
Football is the most popular sport in the North but Pyongyang's leadership banned the national squad from travelling abroad after losing to arch-rivals Japan and South Korea in qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.
The North returned to international football at the Bangkok Asian Games in 1999 but did not compete in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France or the 2002 edition.
The North's return to the World Cup finals comes amid grave international concern after Pyongyang test-fired several rockets and tested a nuclear bomb.
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