Surprises dominated Asia's qualifying for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 as Matchday 4 of the continental campaign took place on Sunday. Both Group A leaders Korea Republic and Group C frontrunners Japan dropped points with the Taeguk Warriors held to a 1-1 draw at Saudi Arabia, while the young Samurai Blue lost 2-1 to Syria conceding top place to the west Asians in the process.
Elsewhere, Uzbekistan emerged the only victorious leaders, downing visiting Australia 2-0 at home to further cement their place at the top with two matches to spare. Athens 2004 semi-finalists Iraq, however, saw their hopes start to fade after being edged out 1-0 by United Arab Emirates. Join FIFA.com as we take a close look at the action across the continent.
Uzbekistan 2-0 Australia
Aurelio Vidmar's Olyroos entered the match desperately needing a win to revive their fortunes, but the Aussies eventually lost out in below zero temperatures in Tashkent after conceding a goal in each half. Australia’s four-match goal-drought continued although the visitors did have two goals disallowed, with Jason Hoffman seeing his effort ruled out for offside shortly after Kenja Turaev put the hosts ahead on 27 minutes. Mitch Nicholls then had the ball in the net only for the whistle to blow for an infringement in the area before, with five minutes remaining, Oleg Zoteev volleyed home to seal the contest.
The result condemned Australia to bottom trailing the Uzbeks by five points and in danger of missing their first Olympic Games since 1984. Vadim Abramov’s home side, however, extended their cushion at the summit to three points and can potentially seal their first-ever Olympic qualification with a win in the penultimate match against Iraq if the other result goes their way. In the section's other match, Ahmad Al Salih's early strike inside three minutes proved enough for UAE to edge Iraq 1-0 as the visitors re-ignited their campaign.
Syria 2-1 Japan
Skipper Ahmad Al Salih scored the last-minute match-winner as Syria pulled off the day's biggest surprise by overcoming Japan. The only team to have maintained a 100 per cent record prior to the matchday, the Japanese entered Group C's top-of-the-table encounter seeking their fourth win but it was the Syrian hosts that took the lead on 19 minutes. Mohammad Fares' shot deflected home by Yuya Osako for an own goal. Although Kensuke Nagai levelled for the visitors before the break, the hosts had the final say courtesy of Salih's long-range strike.
The three points saw Syria replace Japan at the section top leading on goal difference, although the two sides are level on nine points. In the group's other game, Bahrain scraped 2-1 past Malaysia to keep their slim hopes still alive. Despite putting in a resilient performance, the south-east Asians went out with zero points.
The other attractions
Salih's last-gasp strike was not unique as midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung was also on target in the closing minute to give Korea Republic a share of the spoils against Saudi Arabia. After a goalless opening half, the west Asian hosts went in front courtesy of substitute Sultan Khudari’s opener on hour-mark. And with the clock clicking towards the end, the Saudis looked well on course to seal their first victory only to be denied by Kim's last-gasp goal.
Elsewhere, hopefuls Oman threw away a 2-1 lead, and missed a late penalty, to draw 2-2 against hosts Qatar. Despite lamenting the missed chances, the Omanis maintained the pressure on the Korean leaders and a home win against the east Asians in the next outing will be enough to move them to the top.
Having set up the opener and scored another as Uzbekistan saw off Iraq 2-0 previously, Kenja Turaev continued to shine against Australia by breaking the deadlock with a long-range effort. Since representing his country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, the 22-year-old Nasaf Qarshi forward has been heralded as one of the team's promising stars.
0 - Australia's hard work could be undermined by their lack of finishing, with the Olyroos still desperately searching for a goal after four matches.
What they said
"This is a precious win. I was confident that we would win despite the equaliser that Japan scored towards the end of the first half. We got three important points and we must prepare for the next two matches which are also as important as the Japan match." Syria coach Haitham Jattal
Matchday 4 results
Sunday 5 February
Group A: Qatar 2-2 Oman, Saudi Arabia 1-1 Korea Republic
Group B: Iraq 0-1 United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan 2-0 Australia
Group C: Syria 2-1 Japan, Bahrain 2-1 Malaysia