SEOUL - North Korea boosted their chances of reaching their first World Cup finals in 44 years after beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Pyongyang on Wednesday.
Mun In-guk's well-taken goal from close range 28 minutes into the Group Two qualifier was enough to earn the battling hosts three points against a misfiring Saudi team without four regular starters.
Wearing gloves and roll-neck sweaters to keep out the cold, the Saudis looked dangerous but failed to get past a resolute North Korean defence, which packed out the area on every attack.
North Korea had the best of the early exchanges and went ahead when Hong Yong-jo's showmanlike back heel found it's way through the baffled Saudi defence and into the path of Mun, who slotted the ball under the body of the onrushing keeper.
Former Asian player of the year Yasser Al-Kahtani returned from injury and was a constant menace for the Koreans, who countered a Saudi second-half onslaught with a stream of attacks late in the game.
Seven minutes from time, Al-Kahtani, known as "the sniper" in Asia, came close to grabbing a point when his superb shot from outside the area was spectacularly turned away by Ri Myong-guk.
The win gave the North Koreans, who reached the quarter-finals of the 1966 finals, seven points, the same as leaders South Korea, who play Iran later on Wednesday.comments