Unlike the other sections in the third round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup™ finals, Group 3 produced few surprises as Korea Republic and Korea DPR duly progressed to the last ten. Having already booked their places in the final phase with a game to spare, the South and North Koreans finished level on 12 points after a goalless draw in Seoul. Despite finishing runners-up on goal difference, Korea DPR could boast the finest defensive record in the whole Asian qualifying series: they did not concede a single goal in six games.
Korea Republic 2-2 Jordan, Seoul, 31 May
The hosts appeared to be on their way to all three points when Park Ji-Sung opened the scoring in the 39th minute, and Park Chu-Young made it 2-0 from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half. But just as the Koreans were beginning to relax, the visitors fought back with verve. Substitute Hasan Abdalfatah got the Jordanians back into the match with a close-range effort in the 73rd minute, before firing home an unstoppable rocket with nine minutes remaining.
The critical match
Korea DPR 2-0 Jordan, Pyongyang, 14 June
Trailing the two Koreas by four points going into the penultimate group game, the visitors desperately needed a win to keep their hopes alive. However, it wasn't to be: Hong Yong-Jo, who scored the only goal of the game from a free kick in their first encounter in February, proved Jordan's nemesis again as the No.10 put the North Koreans ahead just before half-time. Hong went on to prove his class in the 72nd minute, gliding past three defenders before unleashing a low shot into the corner of the net. The result put Korea DPR through to the next round along with southern neighbours Korea Republic.
The star players
If Hong Yong-Jo was the catalyst for Korea DPR's success, Kim Do-Heon was a match-winner for Korea Republic. Brought in as a replacement for the injured Park Ji-Sung, the West Bromwich Albion midfielder scored a hat-trick against Turkmenistan on the same day Hong found the net twice in Pyongyang. However, it was Jordan's super-sub Hasan Abdalfatah who finished top scorer in the section, adding two quick-fire goals on the last matchday to his brace against Korea Republic.
For the first time ever in their football history, Korea Republic hosted Korea DPR in a competitive match in Seoul on 22 June. Although the first Korean summit clash, which had been initially scheduled for 26 March in Pyongyang, was instead moved to Shanghai for diplomatic reasons, some 48,000 spectators at the Seoul World Cup Stadium could enjoy the historic event as the South and the North played out a goalless draw, in a very friendly manner. A giant banner in the south stand summed up the atmosphere: "We are one."