The Japan Football Association (JFA) has expressed its strong dissatisfaction with the scheduling of the second Asian qualifier for the 2026 FIFA North America Cup.
The Japan national soccer team, led by Hajime Moriyasu, is scheduled to take on Syria in the second round of Asia’s second qualifying round at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on June 21 at 11:45 p.m. ET. The kickoff time of the match has caused quite a stir in Japan.
Originally, the match was scheduled to take place on the 22nd at 2am (8pm local time), but was suddenly moved to the 21st at 11:45pm (5:45pm local time). This was a last-minute change that would have allowed the game to be played in a time zone that would have avoided the heat. The change in kickoff time also put the Japan Football Association in a difficult situation, with many Japanese media outlets, including Sportshochi, reporting that the sudden time change made the live broadcast unclear.
In the meantime, Japan has been further irritated by Syria’s decision to play the second leg of the second qualifying round in November in what is effectively a two-game home series. Syria will host North Korea in the first round of the second qualifier on Nov. 16 at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium. The match was originally scheduled to be played in North Korea, but the home and away order was changed at the last minute. Japan sees it as unreasonable that Syria, who would have had to travel back and forth between North Korea and Saudi Arabia under the original plan, would be able to play two easy home games.
Japanese media outlet Dospoweb reported that Japan Football Association executive director Tsuneyasu Miyamoto has expressed his displeasure with the situation. According to the report, Miyamoto expressed strong disapproval of FIFA-AFC’s actions. 보스토토 도메인
“Japan, Syria, North Korea, and Myanmar were in the same group, and there was no mention of the stadium being changed while information was being shared,” Miyamoto said. We told AFC-FIFA that it was strange for Japan to suddenly make such an announcement. It took a while to get a response, and they said the decision was final. This is also difficult to understand from Japan’s point of view.”
Meanwhile, Japan will face North Korea in a 21-game home-and-away series in March after the second round of qualifying concludes this November. For Japan, who had a nightmarish trip to Pyongyang during the second qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the pressure is on. They may have the power advantage, but the schedule and environment are a thorn in their side.