Fifa to investigate after violence mars North Korea defeat

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The Independent Online

Fifa is today awaiting referee Mohammed Kousa's report before launching an investigation after he and two assistants were forced to seek refuge from angry North Korea fans following the World Cup qualifier against Iran.

Fifa is today awaiting referee Mohammed Kousa's report before launching an investigation after he and two assistants were forced to seek refuge from angry North Korea fans following the World Cup qualifier against Iran.

Iran beat North Korea 2-0 in Pyongyang yesterday in a match that ended in violent scenes to take the outright lead in their World Cup qualifying group. The match officials were unable to leave the pitch for 20 minutes after the game as furious North Korea fans hurled bottles, rocks and chairs in frustration.

North Korean soldiers and police were forced to step in to restore order at Kim Il-Sung Stadium after the defender Nam Song-Chol was sent off for shoving the Syrian referee Kousa. The violence spilled over outside the stadium where thousands of angry North Korea supporters prevented Iran's players from boarding the team bus. Riot police finally pushed back the crowd far enough for Iran's squad to depart two hours after the end of the game.

"The atmosphere on the pitch and outside the pitch was not a sports atmosphere," said Iran's Croatian coach, Branko Ivankovic. "It is very disappointing when you feel your life is not safe. My players tried to get to the bus after the game but it was not possible - it was a very dangerous situation."

A deflected free-kick from Mehdi Mahdavikia in the 33rd minute and a Javad Nekounam goal 10 minutes from time gave Iran seven points from three games in the final round of the Asian zone qualifiers for 2006.

Tempers flared towards the end of the Group B match as Nam was dismissed for pushing Kousa after he had denied the defender a penalty. The game was held up for five minutes following Nam's dismissal as bottles rained down on to the stadium's running track.

As trouble reignited on the final whistle, security forces were mobilised and stadium announcements warned the crowd of 60,000 to be calm.

The result left North Korea's hopes of qualifying for their second World Cup in tatters after their third consecutive defeat. Bahrain would have joined Iran on seven points if they had beaten Japan in Saitama but Japan won 1-0 thanks to a Mohamed Ahmed own goal to get their own qualifying campaign back on track.

The Japan coach, Zico, was under intense pressure to get a result after 2-1 victory at home to North Korea last month and last week's defeat in Tehran. His side dominated possession in Saitama but never threatened until a Takayuki Suzuki effort in the 57th minute forced a save from the goalkeeper Ali Hasan.

Suzuki's strike partner Naohiro Takahara almost snapped up the rebound and 10 minutes later Takahara shaved the post with a low left-foot shot. Japan eventually broke through when Ahmed panicked under pressure from a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick and sliced the ball into his own net.

"It was a very difficult game but the players showed great patience and character," Zico said. "They battled hard and showed great focus."

The two third-placed Asian teams face each other for the right to contest a two-leg playoff with a North/Central America and Caribbean (Concacaf) zone team and earn a possible fifth World Cup spot for Asia. The top two teams from each Asian group advances automatically to next year's World Cup in Germany.

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