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Heartbreak for Iran in Seoul
by Paul Kennedy, June 18th, 2009 7AM



[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] One of the most dramatic World Cup games in recent memory ended in heartbreak for Iran Wednesday.

For Iran's deciding Group B qualifier against South Korea in Seoul, seven Iranian starters wore green tape in support of opposition leader Mir Hossain Mousavi, a symbolic protest to the controversial presidential election visible on Iranian television.

Coached by Iranian-American Afshin Ghotbi, Iran was nine minutes away from qualifying for the World Cup 2010 finals when Manchester United star Park Ji-Sung equalized for South Korea.

The 1-1 tie would eliminate Iran from contention when later in the day North Korea tied Saudi Arabia, 0-0. North Korea claimed Asia's fourth automatic berth and Saudi Arabia moved into a playoff with Bahrain.

Captain Mehdi Mahdavikia -- hero of Iran's 2-1 win over the USA at the 1990 World Cup -- was one of the players who wore green tape.

Another star, Ali Karimi, had green tape wrapped around both wrists.

According to a statement on Mousavi's Web site, most players were ordered to take the armbands off at halftime.

Iran went ahead early in the second half on an own goal but could not hold on.

"We played too conservatively after scoring the first goal," Ghotbi said. "Our defense sat back and allowed South Korea to dominate the match."

The result allowed North Korea to go through to the finals for the first time since 1966 with the tie at Saudi Arabia later in the day.

Australia, Japan and South Korea had already qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

Group A
Australia 2 (Cahill 59, 76) Japan 1 (Tulio 40)
Bahrain 1 (Abdulrahman 74) Uzbekistan 0
Final Standings:
Australia 8 6 2 0 12 1 20
Japan 8 4 3 1 11 6 15
Bahrain 8 3 1 4 6 8 10
Qatar 8 1 3 4 5 14 6
Uzbekistan 8 1 1 6 5 10 4
Group B
South Korea 1 (Park Ji-Sung 80) Iran 1 (Masoud Shojaei 51)
Saudi Arabia 0 North Korea 0
Final Standings:
South Korea 8 4 4 0 12 4 16
North Korea 8 3 3 2 7 5 12
Saudi Arabia 8 3 3 2 8 8 12
Iran 8 2 5 1 8 7 11
United Arab Emirates 8 0 1 7 6 17 1

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