Draws kept Australia,
Japan and Korea Republic firmly on course for Asian Zone places at the 2010 FIFA
World Cup South Africa™ today. The former pair played out a goalless stalemate
in Yokohama; a result that kept the Socceroos top of Group 1, two points above
their opponents, who themselves opened up a four-point cushion over their
closest pursuers in the race for the pool's two automatic tickets to South
Bahrain sneaked into third, above Qatar on goal difference, thanks to a last-gasp winner in Uzbekistan in the section's other game, and Korea DPR took advantage of their section-leading neighbours' draw in Iran to leap above Ali Daei's side and into second in Group 2. FIFA.com reviews the latest action.
Australia remain the only team not to have conceded a goal in Asia's final qualifying round, after holding Japan to a draw in Yokahama's International Stadium. They preserved this statistic largely thanks to a combination of substandard finishing from their hosts and excellent goalkeeping from Mark Schwarzer.
Surprise of the day
Korea DPR 1-0 Saudi Arabia, Pyongyang, 19 November, 15:00 (Local time)
Mun In Guk (29)
Korea DPR underlined their status as Asia's dark horses by upsetting Saudi Arabia, who are 64 places above them on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The result moved the North Koreans up to second in the pool, but left their opponents languishing in fourth. Mun In-Guk scored the only goal in the first half, much to the delight of the 70,000-plus crowd, and despite a series of second-held chances for both sides, the Chollima held on for an unexpected success.
Iran 1-1 Korea Republic, Tehran, 11 February, 15:00 (local time)
Javad Nekounam, (58); Park Ji-Sung (81)
It came as no surprise that old acquaintances Iran and Korea Republic, who met for the 22nd time, employed cautious game plans. Consequently, there were openings, but after a Javad Nekounam free-kick put the hosts in front just before the hour, the hosts elected to sit back on their lead. This handed Huh Jung-Moo's Taeguk Warriors the initiative, and Park Ji-Sung rewarded this by heading home an equaliser nine minutes from time.
It was a game both sides needed to win, and that Bahrain did thanks to Mahmood Abdulrahman, who converted the only goal from a free-kick deep into the stoppage time. The victory gave the Gulf side a lifeline, while the qualification chances of Uzbekistan, who have just one point after four matches, are hanging by a thread.
Player of the day
Korea DPR captain Hong Yong-Jo again raised eyebrows. The 26-year-old Rostov forward, who had already scored four goals in the Asian qualifying campaign, turned provider, producing a clever back-heel to leave Mun In-Guk with a simple finish for the only goal against Saudi Arabia.
The numbers game
2 - The number of free-kicks scored in the four matches: 50 per cent of today's goals.
What they said
"It was an important match for both sides. We really wanted to win but we conceded a goal too easily. It's disappointing but I'd say I'm also satisfied with a point. We were fortunate not to concede more goals, and we scored an equaliser," Huh Jung-Moo, Korea Republic coach.