SAITAMA - Japan squeezed past North
Korea 1-0 on Friday with a dramatic injury-time winner in a
politically charged World Cup qualifier spared the full fury of
a powerful approaching typhoon.
Defender Maya Yoshida rose to head home four minutes into
stoppage-time in rain-lashed Saitama in their opening match in
the third round of regional 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
"North Korea made us work hard but it was a terrific
victory," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said in a pitchside
interview after the late drama.
"The players battled until the end against a great wall
North Korea put in front of us. They deserve credit for the way
they kept hammering away. Our patience paid off."
North Korea were unfortunate to have Pak Kwang-ryong sent
off seven minutes from time for a studs-up tackle on Yasuhito
Endo and the dismissal triggered a late Japanese onslaught.
"It wasn't the prettiest of wins," said Japan captain Makoto
Hasebe. "I hope we'll give the fans a bit more fun in the next
games but there are no easy World Cup qualifers."
Japan's clashes with North Korea have frequently been played
against a backdrop of political tension relating to World War
II, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the kidnapping of
The Blue Samurai, unbeaten in 12 games since Italian
Zaccheroni took charge last October, have also been drawn
alongside Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in Group C.
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