Japan beat North Korea in FIFA WC Qualifiers

Japan's Takuma Asano (left) and North Korea's Kim Yu Song compete for the ball during a FIFA World Cup Qualifiers match at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Thursday.
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AFP, Hong Kong :
Japan and Australia strode towards the next stage of FIFA World Cup (WC) Qualifiers but South Korea dropped points despite leading through talisman Son Heung-min.

Later, Iran thrashed Turkmenistan, Asian champions Qatar beat Kuwait and Saudi Arabia won against Tajikistan as the Middle East’s heavyweights remained unbeaten.

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

With three wins from three, Japan 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.

“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.

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

It looks set to be moved, however, after the North Koreans told Japan at half-time that they cannot host it, 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.

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.

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