North Korea close in on Challenge Cup semis

COLOMBO - World Cup finalists North Korea thumped Kyrgyzstan 4-0 in Group B of the AFC Challenge Cup on Friday to maintain their bid for a first title.

Captain Pak Song-chol hit a classy 29th-minute free-kick from 20 metres out to open the scoring for the Koreans, who romped home with further strikes in the second period from Pak Kwang-ryong, Choe Myong-ho, who also missed a penalty, and Ri Chol-myong.

The Koreans, who will open their 2010 World Cup campaign against five-times winners Brazil on June 15 in Johannesburg, top Group B on four points in the second-tier Asian tournament following their draw with Turkmenistan, ranked 134th by FIFA, on Wednesday.

Korean coach Jo Tong-sop blamed Wednesday's result on the warm climate in Sri Lanka.

"It is winter for us at home so we have been playing in cold conditions and it was tough to adapt to the warmer conditions in the first match," said Jo.

"But in the second game we were able to overcome this and we were able to show our true selves and apply what we practise in training."

The top two teams from the two groups in the Challenge Cup qualify for the semi-finals, with the winners of the tournament earning a place in the 2011 Asian Cup finals in Qatar.