DAIZEN MAEDA played the entire 90 minutes as Japan overcame North Korea 1-0 in a crucial World Cup 2026 qualifier in Tokyo today.
The Celtic winger, sporting his new blond look, was industrious as ever as his country responded to their disappointing Asian Cup exit after losing to Iran at the quarter-final stage last month.
Maeda celebrated three points with his team-mates before a row erupted between the two nations with the venue for Tuesday night’s return in doubt.
The North Korean football federation has indicated it isn’t prepared to allow the game to be played in Pyongyang, according to a report in the Scottish Sun.

BLOND AMBITION…Daizen Maeda in action for Japan in their win over North Korea in Tokyo today.

Apparently, Japan’s foreign ministry has already instructed the country’s international fans NOT to travel for the scheduled qualifier at the Kim Il Sung Stadium “as part of measures against North Korea”.

The qualifier for a place among soccer’s elite in the competition to be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico in two years’ time is now in doubt.

Adding to the confusing situation, a rare and dangerous bacterial infection is spreading at a record rate in Japan.

After today’s match at the National Stadium, Kozo Tajima, the nation’s FA president, said: “This morning we received notification that a letter has been sent from North Korea to the AFC (Asian Football Confederation).

“The North Korean Football Association has reportedly approached the AFC about changing the venue, and no alternative venue has been decided at this time, making this an emergency situation with the match only five days away.”

Now there is the question if AFC or Fifa could instruct the match to be played elsewhere – or whether Japan could be handed a default win.

Either way, Brendan Rodgers will be hoping Maeda is back in Scotland in plenty of time for the Premiership game at Livingston a week on Sunday.

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