HONG KONG (Reuters) - FIFA have voided North Korea's results in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after they pulled out of the preliminaries earlier this month.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed North Korea's withdrawal on May 15, which followed the country's decision not to participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Korea had been competing in Group H of Asia's preliminaries alongside South Korea, Lebanon, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka. With North Korea's results wiped out, South Korea now lead the group, level on seven points with Lebanon.
Turkmenistan, who had previously held top spot thanks to their 3-1 win over North Korea in November 2019, drop down to third on six points.
North Korea's withdrawal has also prompted FIFA and the AFC to modify the qualifying criteria for the third phase of the preliminaries.
The winners of each of the groups will advance to the next round alongside the four nations with the best runners-up records.
"The results of matches between the second placed and fifth-placed teams in Groups A to G will not be counted to ensure a balanced final comparison between all group runners-up," the AFC said in a statement.
Asia's World Cup qualifying tournament resumes on Friday after a lengthy delay due to the pandemic when Japan face Myanmar in Chiba.
Matches in Group H return on June 5 when Lebanon meet Turkmenistan and South Korea, who are hosting the centralised group games, play Sri Lanka.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Peter Rutherford)