29 Mar 2009

Japan, N Korea go top in World Cup qualifying

12:53 pm on 29 March 2009

Japan and North Korea have snatched the lead in their respective groups with home wins in Asian qualifiers for the 2010 football World Cup.

Japan edged a point ahead in Group 1 with a 1-0 victory over Bahrain and surprise package North Korea beat United Arab Emirates 2-0 to move two clear at the top of Group 2 and edge closer to their first World Cup finals since 1966.

Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia grabbed vital victories in must-win games to breathe life into their flagging campaigns and boost their chances of securing playoff berths.

The Uzbeks thrashed a hopeless Qatar 4-0 to move into third in Group 1 with four points from five matches, while the Saudis staged a late rally to stun heavyweights Iran 2-1 and go third in Group 2 with seven points from five outings.