Coach : Afshin Ghotbi
PYONGYANG – DPR Korea and Iran did their World Cup qualification hopes few favours after playing out a goalless draw in a Group B clash at Yanggakdo Stadium on Saturday.
The Iranians were on top in the opening half and nearly took the lead through Vahid Hashemian just before half-time.
But the home side created the better chances after the break only to be denied by goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati, who made good saves to deny Hong Yong-jo and Pak Nam-chol.
The North Koreans moved up to 11 points, level with group leaders Korea Republic and one ahead of third-placed Saudi Arabia although they have only one match remaining.
The Iranians, meanwhile, are fourth with seven points and need to win their last two games to maintain their hopes of qualifying for South Africa.
The visitors settled quickly and nearly took the lead after four minutes when Hossein Kaebi’s low cross from the right found Andranik Teymourian, who held off Pak Chol-jin’s challenge before firing in a low shot that was turned onto the right post by goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk.
The Iranians controlled the tempo for much of the half, with the home side appearing to chase shadows in midfield but created few clear-cut chances.
Their best chance of the half arrived three minutes before the interval when Ali Karimi played a return ball to Mehdi Mahdavikia who took the ball to the right by-line before squaring for Hashemian, whose volley flashed just wide of the target.
After being outplayed for much of the opening half, DPR Korea made a bright start to the second-half.
Just 45 seconds after the restart, Hong Yong-jo fired in a low diagonal shot from just outside the Iran box that forced a superb diving save out of Rahmati.
Four minutes later, Pak Nam-chol sent in a cross from the left that Mun In-guk headed wastefully wide.
Iran had few sniffs of goal in the second-half but very nearly fashioned an opening in the 55th minute when Mahdavikia chipped a free-kick towards Hashemian, who had slipped his marker but was quickly closed down by two defenders before he could unleash a shot.
Rahmati was called into action again in the 64th minute when the North Koreans were awarded a free-kick 20 metres from goal and Hong fired in a low shot that was tipped around the upright by the Iran keeper.
Mehrzad Madanchi came on as a 72nd minute substitute for the injured Mohsen Khalili and almost made an immediate impact, firing in an effort from 35 metres that forced a flying save out of Ri Myong-guk.
At the other end, Jong Tae-se nearly caught out Rahmati with a low cross from the right that nearly snuck in at the near post but the Iranian stopper did brilliantly to turn aside Pak Nam-chol’s shot from distance with a flying save.
In stoppage-time, the Iranians were caught up-field following a corner as a long ball was played to Hong but with Rahmati well off his line, the DPR Korea skipper shot too hastily and put his effort well over the unguarded goal.
The battle to qualify from Group 2 in Asian Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ remains finely balanced, after Korea DPR and Iran played out a goalless draw today.
The latter's goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati kept his side in the game, making a string of fine saves in the second half, notably from Hong Yong-Jo and Pak Nam-Chol, to earn a point at the Yanggakdo stadium.
The draw lifted Korea DPR on to 11 points, level with with section leaders Korea Republic and a point clear of Saudi Arabia. Iran have more of a job on their hands to reach South Africa 2010, as they are fourth with seven points and need to win their last two games to keep alive their hopes.
The Iranians could have scored early on when goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk pushed Andranik Teymourian's effort on to the right post, and they dominated possession for much of the first half without creating many clear-cut chances. Just before half-time, Mehdi Mahdavikia pulled the ball back from the byline to Vahid Hashemian, who shot narrowly wide.
The North Koreans were much improved after the break and soon had a decent chance when Hong Yong-Jo's low shot from the edge of the box forced Rahmati into a fine save. Soon after, Mun In-Guk headed wide from a good position and in the 64th minute, Rahmati was at full stretch to tip away Hong's low, 20-yard free-kick.
Substitute Mehrzad Madanchi came close with a ferocious shot from long range which Ri Myong-Guk did brilliantly to keep out, and then Jong Tae-Se's cross-shot nearly embarrassed Rahmati by sneaking in at the near post. It proved to be just a blip for the impressive Rahmati, who was in action again to keep out Pak Nam-Chol's shot from distance.