Japan have booked their place at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 with a 2-0 win over Bahrain. Second-half goals from Takahiro Ogihara and Hiroshi Kiyotake were enough to put the 1968 bronze medallists through, where they join already-qualified Korea Republic. Uzbekistan will challenge United Arab Emirates for the last automatic Asian berth later.
Elsewhere, Australia rounded off their failed campaign with a goalless draw at home to Iraq, meaning Aurelio Vidmar's men played all six qualifiers - some nine hours of football - without scoring once.
Korea Republic, who had qualified with a game to spare as winners of Group A, stayed unbeaten thanks to a 0-0 draw with Qatar.
In Tokyo, Urawa Red Diamonds midfielder Genki Haraguchi crossed for Cerezo Osaka's Ogihara to open the scoring for Japan ten minutes after the break. And there was to be no way back for Bahrain, who had harboured faint hopes of reaching the play-offs, when Kiyotake netted four minutes later.
Japanese confidence will be high after their senior men's national team secured AFC Asian Cup glory early last year before a historic FIFA Women's World Cup™ title in Germany.
"I have a lot of players with potential," said Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka. "We qualified for the Olympics, but this is merely a start. It was really tough to get through the Asian qualifying rounds. I feel relieved."
Iraq's draw in Gosford meant they finished ahead of Australia in third spot in Group B, with the hosts consigned to bottom place. It will be the first time since 1984 that Australia will not be represented in football at the Olympics. Iraq finished fourth at Athens 2004.
Joy for UAE
While Japan's progression was relatively straightforward, United Arab Emirates qualified the hard way in Tashkent's KAR Stadium. Hosts Uzbekistan needed to win to go through, and they looked on course to do just that when goals from Zoteev Oleg and Fozil Musaev established a two-goal lead with 47 minutes played.
Their Emirati visitors fought back gallantly though, and within eight minutes were level thanks to a quickfire double from Khalil Ahmed. Nonetheless, as the final minutes ticked down, both sides knew that another Uzbekistan goal would sent the Central Asians heading to London.
As it was, however, UAE were the team to strike the decisive blow, with substitute Saleh Haboosh's stoppage time goal making sure of their place at the Olympic Football Tournament.