Iraq out as Qatar, UAE progress

Qatar produced the biggest surprise in matchday 6 of Asia's third round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ on Sunday as Sayd Ali Bechir's second-half strike earned them a 1-0 win over Asian champions Iraq to progress from Group 1 behind Australia. At the same time, the United Arab Emirates, despite losing out to Syria 3-1 at home, still qualified on goal difference to complete Asia's line-up in the next stage.

For Iraq, who entered the closing fixture needing just a point to go through, the defeat marked their second consecutive failure to reach the final round of qualifying for a FIFA World Cup. Syria, despite impressing throughout the campaign through their resilience, were left lamenting their near miss.

A disappointed quartet, who had already been eliminated from any chance of advancing, could at least walk away with their heads held high by rounding off their campaign with a bang, as China, Jordan, Oman and Singapore each came away with a win against their respective rivals.

The two sides from the Korean peninsula both failed to breach their rivals' rearguard as they finished with a goalless draw in Seoul. It was a trio of traditional powerhouses that proved their credentials, with Saudi Arabia reversing their earlier 3-0 loss to Uzbekistan with a even bigger 4-0 win, Japan taking revenge with a 1-0 victory against Bahrain, and Iran having few problems in dispatching Kuwait 2-0.

Results of matchday 4:
Group 1: Australia 0-1 China; Iraq 0-1 Qatar
Group 2: Japan 1-0 Bahrain; Oman 2-1 Thailand
Group 3: Korea Republic 0-0 Korea DPR; Jordan 2-0 Turkmenistan
Group 4: Lebanon 1-2 Singapore; Saudi Arabia 4-0 Uzbekistan
Group 5: Iran 2-0 Kuwait; United Arab Emirates 1-3 Syria

Game of the day
Iraq 0-1 Qatar
Goals: Sayd Ali Bechir 77'

While a draw against Qatar in Dubai would have booked their place in the last ten, Iraq coach Adnan Hamad had urged his players to fight for a win. And they should have done so four minutes into the game when Emad Mohammed got his head onto Nashat Akram's cross, but Qatar goalkeeper Mohammed Saqr responded quickly to snuff out the danger. Sebastian Soria raced clear 18 minutes later after he beat the Iraqi offside trap, but from a tight angle he could do nothing better than pull a shot across the goalmouth harmlessly. Iraq's best chance came in the 69th minute when Akram fired a rocket on the edge of the area only to see it tipped just over.

Just as the Iraqis seemed to be in the ascendancy, they were punished for their inability to finish in front of goal. A brief defensive lapse saw Qatar's second-half substitute Hassan Yasser racing down the left, before hoisting a diagonal pass from into the area. Bechir outjumped two Iraqi defenders to glance his header into the top-left corner with 13 minutes to go.

Surprise of the day
UAE 1-3 Syria
Goals: Ismail Matar 80' pen, Jehad Al Houssain 34', 51', Firas Al Khatib 89'

Syria traveled to Al Ain with a mountain to climb against UAE, who went into the all-important game leading by three points. To cover their deficit to advance, coach Mohammed Kwid's visiting team would have to get not only the full points, but win by at least three goals, which made them risk employing an attacking game plan.

Their offensive strategy nearly succeeded, with Jehad Al Houssain netting once in each half before Firas Al Khatib scored their third with a last-minute strike. However, UAE marksman Ismail Matar's 80th-minute penalty kick made all the difference, as the 1-3 result enabled coach Bruno Metsu's side to claim the last qualifying place by the slightest advantage, having conceded one goal less than their Western Asian rivals.

What they said
"This victory is not very important to us because we had already been eliminated before this match. And Australia didn't field their first team with a number of their overseas-based stars absent, otherwise it would have made life more difficult for us." China coach Vladimir Petrovic

"It was for us a good experience but I cannot be happy about the result, as we lost in front of so many home fans. But we will field a much stronger team in the next stage's competition." Australia coach Pim Verbeek

"In football any team will win or lose but I really wanted to win. The players understood that and they showed heart and spirit and they satisfied me with a good result." Japan coach Takeshi Okada