When Ao Tanaka stroked home Ritsu Doan’s cutback in just the second minute of Japan’s World Cup qualifier against North Korea at National Stadium in Tokyo on Thursday, it looked like the Samurai Blue were all set for a comfortable evening.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men were made to dig deep for the three points as the visitors fought back impressively, however, and while Japan ultimately survived a couple of scares to hang on to their 1-0 win, issues on the pitch were already being overshadowed as news broke in-game that the North Koreans were refusing to host the following week’s return fixture in Pyongyang — which by Saturday would be canceled outright by FIFA

Details were, and still are, a little sketchy on the precise reasons — North Korea manager Sin Yong Nam pointedly dodged a couple of questions on the matter in the postgame news conference — but reports suggested that North Korean concerns over the spread of group A streptococcus in Japan were behind the decision.