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'Missing' North Koreans Turn Up At World Cup

North Korea's football team take part in a training session at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa, 16 Jun 2010

FIFA, the organizer of the World Cup, has denied rumors that four North Korean players defected from their team.

FIFA spokesman Nicholas Maingot told reporters Friday that the organization checked with the North Korean liaison officer, who he said denied the rumor completely.

The rumor apparently began after the four players - Pak Sung Hyok, An Chol Hyok, Kim Kyong Il and Kim Myong Won - were listed as "absent" for North Korea's match against Brazil on Tuesday.

North Korea scheduled a news conference Friday, then cancelled it at the last minute.

However, journalists were allowed to watch the team practicing in Johannesburg. The Associated Press reports that all four "missing" players were visible on the field.

The media has had little access to North Korea's World Cup squad. The reclusive communist state is facing international pressure because of its nuclear program and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.