Japan's trip to North Korea for the women's final football Asian qualifiers for the Paris Olympics is up in the air, the Japan Football Association said Thursday when announcing its 22-player squad.

Nadeshiko Japan were originally scheduled to face North Korea at Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Stadium in the first part of a two-legged tie on Feb. 24, but the JFA said the venue has yet to be confirmed after it conveyed concerns over numerous issues to the Asian Football Confederation.

These included travel difficulties stemming from limited flights to Pyongyang, delays in working-level negotiations with North Korea and a lack of transparency over the match operations.

"There has been a notification from the AFC proposing North Korea play the game at a neutral venue," JFA Women's Committee Chairperson Norio Sasaki told a press conference in Chiba, east of Tokyo.

Japan women's football team manager Futoshi Ikeda (R) and Norio Sasaki, the Japan Football Association Women's Committee chairperson, attend a press conference in Chiba, east of Tokyo, on Feb. 8, 2024. (Kyodo)

The next step is for North Korea to suggest an alternative location for the AFC to make the final decision. Sasaki added it is still possible the match will go ahead in Pyongyang.

The second leg of the tie, which will not employ the away-goal rule, will be at Tokyo's National Stadium on Feb. 28. The winners over two legs will book their place in Paris. Australia and Uzbekistan will vie for Asia's other spot.

World Cup golden boot winner Hinata Miyazawa of Manchester United remains out injured for Nadeshiko Japan, who called up WE League leading scorer Mami Ueno of Sanfrecce Hiroshima Regina in her place.

Manager Futoshi Ikeda can still count on established Europe-based stars in Roma's defensive pair Saki Kumagai and Moeka Minami, alongside Manchester City's Yui Hasegawa and Liverpool's Fuka Nagano in midfield.

"I've been talking with the players about there being lots of unpredictable things happening," Ikeda said. "We'll focus on what we have to do."

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