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Japan tame North Korea in World Cup qualifiers, Son scores in draw

By AFP

March 21, 2024 11:32 PM


North Korea's midfielder Kim Kuk Bom pushes Japan's Hidemasa Morita (R) during the World Cup 2026 qualifier football match between Japan and North Korea at the National Stadium in Tokyo. AFP

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Japan and Australia took big strides towards the next stage of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup but South Korea dropped two points despite leading through Son Heung-min.

Germany-based midfielder Ao Tanaka scored the only goal after two minutes in Tokyo to give Japan a nervy 1-0 win over North Korea.

Japan have three wins from three and are firmly on course to reach the third stage of qualifying for the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

North Korea, who are still in the hunt despite the defeat, were cheered on by a vocal contingent of supporters from Japan's 300,000-strong ethnic Korean community.

They waved flags and had their faces painted, but their side fell just short despite a spirited second-half display.

"We wanted to bring good results for our compatriots but we couldn't, and for that, we're very sorry," said North Korea's coach Sin Yong Nam.

Japan and North Korea are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday in a game that was supposed to take place in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

It looks set to be moved, however, after the North Koreans told their Japanese counterparts at half-time in Tokyo that they cannot host it after all, according to Japan's football chief.

Hajime Moriyasu's Japan hardly sparkled but it was a welcome, if unconvincing, return to winning ways after a disappointing Asian Cup where they exited in the quarter-finals.

Son's South Korea held

Another team trying to move on from the Asian Cup was South Korea as they hosted Thailand in Seoul.

Skipper and Spurs ace Son scored in the first half but the Koreans were pegged back in a 1-1 draw in their first match since the sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann.

It was also the first game since revelations about a bust-up between Son and Paris Saint-Germain's Lee Kang-in at the Asian Cup, where South Korea lost 2-0 to Jordan in the last four.

Son was left with a dislocated finger in the fracas at their team hotel in Qatar on the eve of the semi-final.

Lee started on the bench on Thursday but came on soon after Thailand grabbed a shock equaliser through Suphanat Mueanta.

The two sides meet again on Tuesday in Bangkok.

South Korea are still on course to reach the next stage of qualifying and sit top of their group with seven points from three matches.

Thailand are second on goal difference from China, who squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Singapore in Branko Ivankovic's first match as China coach.

In Sydney, Australia's Scottish connection helped them to a 2-0 victory over a determined Lebanon to move onto a perfect nine points.

St Mirren midfielder Keanu Baccus struck early in the first half before Hearts defender Kye Rowles added a second on 54 minutes in front of a near-full house of 27,000.

Iran, seeking their fourth straight World Cup berth, hammered Turkmenistan 5-0 in Tehran, with Hossein Kanani scoring twice and Bayer Leverkusen's Sardar Azmoun, on loan to Roma, also getting on the scoresheet.

Jordan, who lost the Asian Cup final to hosts Qatar last month, recovered from their slow start in World Cup qualifying to win 3-0 in Pakistan.

 


AFP


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