North Korea beat Japan 1-0 in a
tempestuous World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, the result largely
academic with the visiting Blue Samurai already through to the
final qualifying round for 2014.
Pak Nam-chol headed the winner in the 50th minute, and the
final whistle sparked wild celebrations at Pyongyang's Kim
Il-sung stadium despite the fact North Korea had already been
"We didn't do anything right for 90 minutes," Japan defender
Yasuyuki Konno said. "They dominated us. We were pathetic."
Under the gaze of a giant portrait of North Korea's 'Eternal
President' Kim, Japan's national anthem was drowned out by boos
before a fractious Group C match.
Matches between the two invariably take place against a
backdrop of political tensions over World War II, North Korea's
nuclear ambitions and the kidnapping of Japanese citizens.
Japanese nationals are normally asked to refrain from
travelling to the secretive communist state after sanctions were
imposed following North Korea's missile launch in 2006.
Japan's players had received a typically frosty welcome on
landing at Pyongyang on Monday. They were detained at customs
for four hours while airport officials combed through their
Although a dead rubber, tempers frayed after Pak's goal with
Jong Il-gwan being sent off for a second bookable offence in the
77th minute after a nasty tackle on Atsuto Uchida.
Asian champions Japan, who have 10 points from five matches,
lost for the first time in 17 games under Italian coach Alberto
"They were very physical and made it very difficult," the
Italian said. "North Korea had failed to qualify for the last
round so this will be some consolation for them."
Victory also gave North Korea payback for a 1-0 injury-time
defeat in Japan in September. Uzbekistan will join Japan in the
final round of qualifiers from Group C.
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