Japan beat North Korea 2-0 to become the first team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup alongside hosts Germany.

Striker Atsushi Yanagisawa put Japan ahead on 73 minutes and substitute Masashi Oguro added a second a minute from time to secure Japan’s third successive World Cup appearance.

North Korea striker Kim Yong-su was sent off in stoppage time for stamping on Makoto Tanaka.

“We’ve had lots of criticism but we’ve got the job done,” Japan coach Zico said afetrwards.

“The players have shown tremendous resilience, guts and mental strength. We deserve to be through.”

The game was played behind closed doors in Thailand as punishment for crowd violence following North Korea’s 2-0 defeat by Iran in Pyongyang in March.

“The players only played at 75 percent today,” North Korea’s assistant coach Pak Jong-hun said.

“If it had been Pyongyang they would have given 100 percent. That was the reason we lost.”

Iran lie second in Group 2 two points behind Japan, and can secure a World Cup place for the third time with a point at home to Bahrain later on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea also hope to qualify with victories in Group 1.