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North Korea qualifies for 2010 World Cup

  • Story Highlights
  • North Korea qualify from Group 2 with 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia
  • Australia top Group 1 of Asian qualifying with 2-1 win over Japan
  • Bahrain clinch playoff spot from Group 1 with 1-0 win over Uzbekistan
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(CNN) -- North Korea qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals for the first time since 1966 by battling to a 0-0 draw away to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night.

North Korea

North Korea have qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

The point captured in searing temperatures in Riyadh, saw the Koreans edge into second place in Asian qualifying Group 2 to finish ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference and seal their place in the finals.

It means both group winners South Korea, who co-hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, and neighbors North Korea will play in the 2010 showpiece in South Africa.

North Korea coach Kim Yong-Jun Kim had nothing but praise for his players after the final whistle.

"We focused on the 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," the North Korean boss told FIFA's official Web site.

"We monitored the Saudi team from the beginning of our campaign and I noticed that they have a problem in finding good strikers. We battled to qualify for the World Cup finals and I would like to thank my players for the great performance that they showed during the whole match," added Kim.

"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," Kim stated.

The booking of North Korea's ticket to the finale will see the reclusive nation compete against the world's best despite growing international political concern regarding Pyongyang's testing of a nuclear bomb recently.

Their form in the tournament is one of upsetting the odds after they Italy 43 years ago en route to the quarter-finals.

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, while Iran miss out after finishing fourth in 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.

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 FIFA.com 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.

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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.

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