North Korea qualifies for 2010 World Cup

Tim Cahill celebrates his first goal in Australia's 2-1 win over South Korea.
North Korea qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals by battling to a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night.

The point saw them edge into second place in Asian qualifying Group 2 ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference. It means both group winners South Korean and neighbors North Korea will both go play in the finals in South Africa. The home draw sees Saudi Arabia finish in third place to go into the playoffs where they will face Bahrain. The winners will play New Zealand for a place in the finals. But Iran will miss out after finishing fourth in the Group 2. Earlier on Wednesday, they were denied a victory in Seoul as Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung scored a late equalizer to give South Korea a 1-1 draw.

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Iran took the lead from an own goal early in the second half against the group winners, but Park popped up to score a brilliant 81st minute goal as he beat several men before firing home. In Group 1, Tim Cahill scored twice as Australia came from behind to beat Japan 2-1 to clinch top spot in the section. The result was academic as both teams had already sealed automatic qualification for the World Cup finals in South Africa. Japan went ahead in front of a big crowd of nearly 70,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) as Marcus Tulio Tanaka headed home a Kengo Nakamura corner in the 40th minute. But the Socceroos, who went through qualifying unbeaten, hit back in the second half. Everton’s attacking midfielder Cahill again worked his scoring magic to secure the victory. He was on target in the 59th and 76th minutes to take his tally to 16 in 33 internationals. “This is a step forward for us, it’s great to finish top of the group,” Cahill told after the win, while captain Lucas Neill paid tribute to their opponents. “They really played the game with intensity and they were running us ragged for a bit and we couldn’t get ourselves in the game,” Neill said.

Bahrain later clinched third spot in the group and their playoff spot with a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan. A 74th minute goal from Mahmood Abdulrahman from a free kick gave his side a crucial three points.