A large crowd created a fantastic atmosphere at Hongkou Stadium last night but neither team were able to reward the great support with a goal, as North Korea battled to a 0-0 draw with South Korea. A game of few clear cut chances was largely controlled by South Korea, particularly in the first half, as DPRK fielded a defensive side with striker Jong Tae-se playing a lone role up front. North Korea came into the game more after the break — squandering arguably the best chance of the game when Jong broke clear only to see his poked effort bundled wide of the post by Lee Jung-Soo.
Both teams failed to put free headers inside the box on target in the second half and, despite an upping of tempo, as the game progressed a draw began to look the most likely outcome. Nevertheless, North Korea had to weather a late onslaught from the South with some, at times, desperate defending, but their battling performance, whilst lacking some of the class of the ROK side, saw them gain a well-deserved point.
After the final whistle the sides acknowledged the support from both countries and were roundly cheered by both sets of fans. The atmosphere had been electric but friendly throughout, with Hongkou mostly dominated by South Korean fans but also featuring a vocal and colourful North Korean contingent, creating an incredible spectacle. The passionate support had danced, sung, and cheered their way through the entire 90 minutes — with high-pitched screaming the apparent default option for the South Korean girls sat behind us in the stand, which was nice. The draw leaves South Korea top of their group thanks to their superior goal difference, while North Korea occupy second.
Earlier in the day, Shanghaiist — together with an assortment of ticket touts, policemen, and curious bystanders — had watched China claim a 0-0 draw with Australia on an enormous screen outside Hongkou Stadium. On the face of it, this was not a bad result for China, given that Australia are probably the strongest team in their ‘Group of Death’, but an 87th minute penalty miss from Shao Jiayi left the watching crowd frustrated and feeling that their side had wasted a golden opportunity to move level on points with the Socceroos at the top of the group.
Australia seemed to struggle at times (perhaps China’s decision to play the game at 2,000 metres above sea-level and in the middle of the afternoon had something to do with it?) and China deserved at least a point, but Shao’s spot-kick — which surely would have sealed all 3 points for the home side — was poor and was easily saved by a relieved Schwarzer, who had brought down Qu Bo in the box for the penalty.
Shao’s fluffed penalty proved even more costly for China after Qatar beat Iraq 2-0 in Doha, in the other Group 1 match last night. This meant Qatar moved into second place in the table, a point off leaders Australia and a point ahead of third placed China. China travel to Qatar in early June before hosting both Qatar and Iraq later that same month in matches that could decide their fate. Their final fixture will see them away in Australia on June 22nd, with only the top two from the group going through to the final Asian qualifying stages for South Africa 2010.