The stage is set for the final phase of Asian qualifying for
the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, after a
sextet of sides booked their places in the 12-team concluding
round. Australia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Syria, Bahrain and Qatar
progressed with victories, joining the already-qualified Japan,
Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Korea DPR, Iraq and Korea Republic in the
last push for places at the China showpiece.
The draw for the final phase will be held on 13 June, with the ensuing matches taking place from 22 August to 21 November. The 12 qualified teams will have to battle it out against each other in three pools, with only the group winners advancing to join hosts China at Beijing 2008.
Vu Phong to the rescue
Vietnam continued their impressive form with a 2-1 win over Indonesia, a result which secured them the second qualifying spot in their group behind Lebanon. Nguyen Vu Phong emerged as the Vietnamese hero, scoring the opener on seven minutes and, after Achmad Jufriyanto had equalised for Indonesia, settling the contest in its dying moments.
"It is going to be extremely hard to playing against the likes of Japan and Saudi Arabia in the final stage," Vietnam coach Alfred Riedl told FIFA.com. "Despite the difficulties we will do utmost to delight the fans."
A hotly-contested Group A went down to the wire, with three sides competing for two spots in the final phase. In Manama, Bahrain turned the tables against Kuwait by defeating the former group leaders 2-1 to top the section. Meantime, an unstoppable Qatar overwhelmed Pakistan 7-0 to finish level on eleven points with Kuwait. Crucially, though, Qatar's margin of victory helped them advance alongside Bahrain on goal difference.
Qatar were not the only big victors on an enthralling concluding night to the second qualifying round, with Australia displaying similar determination and skill to win their all-important outing against Jordan 4-0 in Amman. Despite needing just a point to secure their passage to last 12, Australia left nothing to chance after a goalless first half. Following the restart, David Williams swiftly put the Socceroos in the ascendancy and Nick Ward then scored a brace in a space of eight minutes to put the game beyond doubt, before Dario Vidosic put icing on the cake with a 90th minute strike.
A delighted Australia U-23 coach Rob Baan was happy to see his tactical changes pay dividends. "We started a little nervously and didn't create too much in the first half so I changed our tactics in the second half. The whole team played very well and created a lot of chances and finished them." He concluded.
Elsewhere, Uzbekistan grabbed a required victory,
defeating Yemen to qualify behind group winners Korea Republic.
Second qualifying round, Matchday 6 results
Wednesday 6 June
Group A: Qatar 7-0 Pakistan; Bahrain 2-1 Kuwait
Group B: Japan 3-1 Malaysia; Syria 4-1 Hong Kong
Group C: Vietnam 2-1 Indonesia
Group D: Jordan 0-4 Australia; Iran 2-3 Saudi Arabia
Group E: Thailand 2-0 India; Iraq 1-0 Korea DPR
Group F: Korea Republic 3-1 United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan 3-0 Yemen