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Iran clears North Korea to close in on WC berth

By Kambakhsh Khalaji

Tehran, June 3, IRNA-Iran beat North Korea 1-0 in 2006 World Cup Asian zone Group B second-leg qualifier in Azadi Stadium, west of Tehran, Friday, raising its hopes for booking a berth in the finals.

Iran full-back Yahya Golmohammadi headed a Hamburg right winger Mehdi Mahdavikia curling set piece three minutes into stoppage time of the first half, which found Italy's Messina sturdy defender Rahman Rezaei, whose point-blank header from close range landed in after hitting the crossbar.

The narrow win helped the football-crazy Iran, which qualified for the 1978 and 1998 World Cups, extend its leadership in Group B on 10 points out of four games, but North Korea's hopes of reaching the world's most prestigious sporting event for the first time since 1966 were dashed with four consecutive defeats.

Japan, which is now playing Bahrain in another Group B qualifying match in Manama, will stick to the heels of Iran with one point less if it emerges the winner.

The top two teams from each group advance to the World Cup. Asia has the chance to earn a fifth spot in Germany via a playoff with a CONCACAF team.

... Payvand News - 6/4/05 ... --

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