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World Briefing / North Korea

Soccer team wins World Cup spot

June 21, 2009|TIMES WIRE REPORTS

The national soccer team returned home to a heroes' welcome, complete with a brass band and bouquets, after securing a spot in the World Cup for the first time in more than 40 years.

North Korea's return to soccer's most prominent tournament was secured Wednesday with a scoreless draw against Saudi Arabia.

But the heirs to the "Red Mosquitoes," the underdog darlings of the 1966 World Cup, are unlikely to bask in the same international welcome in South Africa next year. Their success has been overshadowed by tensions over North Korea's rocket launches and an underground nuclear test.

The government banned the team from foreign travel after defeats to Japan and South Korea in the qualifying stages of the 1994 World Cup. It tentatively returned in 1999.

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