Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • France says missing Algerian plane 'probably crashed'

    Read more

  • 51 French nationals aboard missing Algerian plane

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Pope meets with Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy

    Read more

  • Algerian jet vanishes: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to easy victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European aviation agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

North Korea qualifies for first World Cup since 1966

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-18

Isolated North Korea qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for the second time in their history, after managing a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia.

AFP - Isolated on the global stage, North Korea will pit their wits against football's heavyweights at next year's World Cup after qualifying for only the second time in their history.

The North, whose only previous World Cup appearance was in 1966, secured their place in the finals with a typically dour 0-0 draw away at Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, joining neighbours and sworn enemies South Korea in South Africa.

Their qualification comes against the backdrop of grave international concern about the intentions of the North and its reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il after Pyongyang test-fired several rockets and tested a nuclear bomb.

Even their campaign to reach football's four-yearly showpiece was not free from intrigue and controversy.

Earlier this year North Korea said its players had been poisoned ahead of a 1-0 defeat in Seoul, allegations that South Korean football officials branded as "groundless" and "far-fetched."

The North, in a statement, also pointed the finger at the Omani referee.

"The match... turned into a theatre of plot-breeding and swindling," the statement said.

In their only previous World Cup, in England 43 years ago, the North became many people's second team as they beat the mighty Italy on the way to the quarter-finals, where they went out to a Eusebio-inspired Portugal, 5-3.

But in the current diplomatic climate, coupled with their brand of defensive counter-attacking football, they are unlikely to be so popular or entertaining this time around.

The draw against Saudi Arabia that sealed qualification was typical of North Korea's campaign, which will see them competing against football's elite despite a lowly world ranking of 106 -- on a par with Moldova.

They scored only seven goals in eight games in the final qualification stage, conceding just five, while in the preceding group stages their resolute defence was not breached once in six games.

"It was so hot in Saudi Arabia and as you know the journey from Korea was long, but our belief in the ability of the players snatched the ticket to South Africa," coach Kim Jong-Hun said after the game.

"We focused on defending as we had come under a lot of pressure from the Saudis and I think our preparation for the game was one factor that earned the victory tonight," he told the official Asian Football Confederation website.

Japanese-born Jong Tae-Se, dubbed "Asia's Wayne Rooney" by South Korean media because of his combative style, is one of the few players from the North who plies his trade outside the isolated state's heavily guarded borders -- for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan's J-League.

"I think the players of the Republic have very high individual skills and the team has functioned as a unit with defensive tactics which allowed individual defensive skills to show," Jong told AFP last year.

The North's new-found success is a far cry from just a few years ago when they all but vanished from international football after losing to arch-rivals Japan and South Korea in qualifiers for the 1994 tournament.

Football may be the most popular sport in North Korea but that did not stop Pyongyang's leadership from banning the team from travelling abroad.

They returned to international football at the Bangkok Asian Games in late 1999 but did not compete in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France or the 2002 edition.

 

Date created : 2009-06-18

COMMENT(S)