Japan and United Arab Emirates will join Korea Republic in representing Asia at this year's Men's Olympic Football Tournament after bagging respective victories over Bahrain and Uzbekistan on Matchday 6 of the continent's final qualifying round.
Both Japan and UAE entered their final-round deciders needing just a point to go through. However, the pair went through in style as Japan recorded a 2-0 home win over Bahrain to book their fifth consecutive qualification, while UAE sealed their Olympic debut with a 3-2 triumph in Uzbekistan. And, while the Uzbeks suffered defeat, all hope is not lost as they now join Oman and Syria as group runners-up and will take part in a round-robin play-off tournament in Vietnam later this month. The winner will go on to meet Senegal in April to vie for a fourth possible berth for Asia. Join FIFA.com as it reviews all these details and more in Olympic qualifying across Asia.
Japan 2-0 Bahrain
Bahrain came out all guns blazing against Japan, knowing that only a big win would see them edge their opponents in claiming Group C's qualifying spot. Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka had advised his side to stay true to their possession-based style and the home side duly enjoyed the lion's share of the ball. As a result, Bahrain were limited to a few desperate half-chances and the pair played out a goalless first half.
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake rattled the Tokyo area during the second half, but it did little to disturb proceedings on the pitch. Cheered on by home crowd support, the Japanese finally went ahead on 55 minutes. Takahiro Ogihara latched on to a Genki Haraguchi cross to open the scoring, while Hiroshi Kiyotake sealed the victory four minutes later. In the section's other game, Syria defeated Malaysia 3-0 to finish second in the group and secure a play-off place, with Mardek Mardkian scoring in each half and Omar Al Suma netting the other.
Uzbekistan 2-3 United Arab Emirates
Needing a win to pip Group B leaders UAE, the Uzbeks, with a strong home record, came into the game full of attacking intentions. Midfielder Oybek Kilichev wreaked havoc, sending set-pieces into the penalty area, while Kenja Turaev tested goalkeeper Adel Mohamed with a low-driven shot. And Uzbekistan’s pressure finally told on 34 minutes when Oleg Zoteev saw his shot find its way past both Mohamed and a goalline defender, before Fozil Musaev doubled the lead with a header shortly after the restart.
However, just when the central Asians looked as if they would cruise to victory, Ahmed Khalil enjoyed a moment of individual brilliance as he guided his side back into the contest. The 2008 AFC Youth Player of the Year reduced the deficit with a sublimely taken free-kick on 51 minutes and within four minutes grabbed his second to put the game on a knife's edge. Taking the goalscorer’s place was substitute Haboosh Saleh, who went on to settle the contest with an injury-time effort. The other match in the group, between two eliminated sides, saw Australia, effectively fielding an U-21 side, held to a goalless draw at home by Iraq.
The other attractions
In Group A, Hussain Al Hadhri struck two minutes before the break to put Oman ahead, but Saudi Arabia's Fahd Al Muwallad ensured a share of the spoils 11 minutes into the second half in a 1-1 draw. The point, coupled with Qatar's goalless draw with Korea Republic in the other game in the pool, ensured Oman clinched the section’s play-off place as second-place finishers.
0 - Australia emerged the only side to conclude the final round with no goals scored as they finished bottom in Group B, failing to qualify for the Olympic tournament for the first time since 1984.
What they said
"I have a lot of players with potential. 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 now," said Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka.
Final round - Matchday 6
Group A: Saudi Arabia 1-1 Oman, Korea Republic 0-0 Qatar
Group B: Uzbekistan 2-3 United Arab Emirates, Australia 0-0 Iraq
Group C: Syria 3-0 Malaysia, Japan 2-0 Bahrain