Paraguay pip N Korea

Paraguay pip N Korea

Santa Cruzs 86th minute strike spares Latin Americans the blushes

Paraguay pip N Korea

Paraguay’s Roque Santa Cruz celebrates after converting a penalty against North Korea in a World Cup friendly match at Nyon, Switzerland, on Saturday. AP

North Korea defended tenaciously and showed tactical discipline and flashes of skill in attack as they came within four minutes of forcing a second successive goalless draw following last month's 0-0 stalemate with South Africa.

The team from the hermit state, backed by about 20 flag-waving compatriots in the stands, lived up to their reclusive reputation as they refused to attend the post-match news conference.

Striker Roque Santa Cruz saved Paraguay's blushes by scoring an 86th-minute penalty given away by Nam Song-chol who, under no pressure from an opponent, used his hand to control a pass in a moment of naivete.

North Korea coach Kim Jong-Hun has given little away about tactics but it seemed clear on Saturday they will try to frustrate first-round World Cup opponents Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal.

Although their defence was well-organised and hard-working, they often looked lightweight in direct physical challenges.

They also had difficulty playing their way out of defence, with goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk repeatedly pumping long kicks into the Paraguay half.

"They defend very well, create a lot of complications and are very fast on the counter-attack," said Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, whose team have reached their fourth successive World Cup.