The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea went down 1-3 to Uzbekistan in their last league clash of the AFC U-16 Championship group stage on Friday. North Korea are the defending champions and won both their previous group encounters against Yemen (2-0) and Thailand (4-1) quite easily to qualify for the next stage of the tournament with a game to spare.

The last group stage match against Uzbekistan would determine the group winner. However, the manner in which the Koreans lost the match shocked the footballing world and the reigning champions have been accused of playing for an easier draw in the knockout stages of the tournament.

The win helped Uzbekistan top the group while DPR Korea finished second. The second place finish helped them avoid a match against Group C runners-up Iraq. Instead, North Korea will now meet Oman in the quarter-finals.

After a goalless first half, Uzbekistan netted the first goal with goalkeeper Jasurbek Umrzakov scoring from his own half. A long kick from the goalkeeper should have been saved by the DPR Korea goalkeeper but, he fell, slipped, missed and failed to let the ball in.

A closer look at the video reveals that the Korean keeper Jang Paek-ho stops for a fraction of a second before deciding to give chase to the runaway goal-bound ball. His slip was attributed to the wet nature of the surface in the official AFC match report.

The second and third goal also looked staged with Uzbekistan’s Rasul Yuldoshov and Ibrokhim Ganikhonov making it 3-0. The third goal saw Korea fail to clear the ball from their defence for a long period of time, opting for back-passes instead.

The manner in which these goals were scored were questionable, if not downright dubious. The Asian Football Confederation needs to investigate if these were genuine blunders by the Korean team after the young East Asian team posted superb victories in their other group stage matches.

The goalkeeping blunder has become viral online with people terming it a gimmick. A video uploaded by the AFC on YouTube has received more than 10 lakh views with users suggesting Korea wanted to lose the game.