Tanaka's goal lifts Japan past North Korea in World Cup qualifying

Tanaka's goal lifts Japan past North Korea in World Cup qualifying

Ao Tanaka's second-minute goal was all Japan needed to beat North Korea, 1-0, and take another step towards qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The Kawasaki Frontale product struck early to delight the crowd at the Japan National Stadium. The Samurai Blue surged forward right after the kick-off and Tanaka got on the end of a cross from Ritsu Doan, sweeping it home to put the home side in front.

Japan kept the pressure on, with Doan at the heart of it. The former Gamba Osaka man was a constant threat, regularly setting up his teammates for chances and creating a couple for himself as well.

Despite having the bulk of the ball, playing in the attacking end and having looks at goal, the Samurai Blue didn’t put much pressure on the North Korea goalkeeper and their lack of clinical finishing kept the visitors in the match.

Fortunately, the Japan defense was excellent. They were organized and tough in every tackle, quickly winning the ball back, and never really allowing North Korea a decent chance at goal. The only time the visitors managed to mount a serious threat came early in the second half when they put the ball in the back of the net, but the offside flag rightly went up.

While the Samurai Blue may have wanted to add another goal or two, they were the better team throughout and delivered a comprehensive victory that puts them that much closer to booking their ticket to the next round of Asian Qualifiers.