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North Korea secures World Cup berth

North Korea qualified for its first World Cup finals since 1966 after holding Saudi Arabia to a 0-0 draw in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The visitors finished the game with 10 men and defending against a wave of attacks but held firm to join South Korea, Australia and Japan as Asia's four automatic qualifiers for South Africa 2010.

North Korea finished runner-up to South Korea in Group 2 while Australia and Japan went through from Group 1.

Third-placed Saudi Arabia, bidding for its fifth successive appearance in the finals, advanced to the Asian playoffs with Bahrain, third in Group 1. The two teams meet over two legs in September with the winners progressing to a home and away playoff against Oceania winner New Zealand in October and November for a place in South Africa.

With Saudi Arabia needing to win to gain an automatic place, the hosts made all the early running at the King Fahd Stadium. They kept North Korea under pressure with a series of shots at goal but were unable to capitalize on their chances, even when the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Kim Yong-jun was sent off in stoppage time.

North Korea's only previous appearance at the World Cup was in 1966 in England when it reached the quarterfinals.

North Korea gave a "great performance," coach Kim Jong-hun said.

"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.

"We monitored the Saudi team from the beginning of our campaign and I noticed that they have a problem in finding good strikers."

In Manama, Bahrain notched the only goal when dead-ball specialist Mahmood Abdulrahman's free-kick gave Uzbekistan keeper Ignatiy Nesterov no chance in the 74th minute in front of more than 20,000 fans at National Stadium. Bahrain also finished with 10 men after center back Abdulla al Marzooqi was sent off 12 minutes from time.



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