Top seeds Australia moved a step closer to qualifying for their second consecutive FIFA World Cup™ finals following their 1-0 win over Bahrain on Wednesday, their third victory in a row, which strengthened their grip on top spot in Group A. Hot on the Socceroos' heels are Japan, who pulled off a stunning 3-0 win over hosts Qatar to remain in second place with seven points. At the same time, Bahrain were left languishing at the bottom alongside Uzbekistan, who did not play.
Elsewhere, Group B leaders Korea Republic ignited their campaign with a deserved 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, while Iran salvaged a precious away point against United Arab Emirates, whose 1-1 draw left their hopes of progression hanging by a thread. FIFA.com takes a look back at all four games.
Matchday 4 results
19 November 2008
Game of the day
Qatar 0-3 Japan
Tatsuya Tanaka 19, Keiji Tamada 47, Marcus Tulio Tanaka 68
Japan registered their first win against Qatar as they saw off the Gulf side 3-0. Both Japan coach Takeshi Okada and his opposite number Bruno Metsu were under pressure to gain a win, having failed to take maximum points from their previous games, and it was the visiting team who came away with the three points, a result which keeps Japan's bid for their fourth consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals firmly on track.
With Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura pulling the strings and Yasuhito Endo an able assistant, Japan were in control for the majority of the game. Qatar defended gallantly, but their rearguard was inevitably breached after 19 minutes, when Tatsuya Tanaka opened the scoring. Japan picked up where they left off after the restart and Keiji Tamada doubled the lead just two minutes into the second half. With 22 minutes to go, Nakamura sent an inch-perfect cross into the path of Marcus Tulio Tanaka, who made no mistake to round off a memorable night for Japan.
Surprise of the day
Bahrain 0-1 Australia
Marco Bresciano 90+3
In a game largely dominated by the hosts, Pim Verbeek's Australia were indeed fortunate not to concede, but their opponents' poor finishing, and some fine saves by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, kept the scoreline blank. Against the run of play, they registered their third straight win, when Marco Bresciano scored deep into injury time.
Milan Macala's side could have taken the lead before the break, when Jaycee Okwunwanne flashed a cross-cum-shot narrowly wide. The hosts continued their dominance into the second half but they were finally punished for their profligacy in front of goal, when Bresciano capitalized on a defensive error to seal an unlikely win.
Even an early goal from Abdulraheem Jumaa failed to help hosts UAE break their jinx against Iran, whom they had never defeated in their previous nine meetings. Iranian veteran Karimi Bagheri cancelled out Jumaa's effort nine minutes from time to keep their undefeated run intact, while keeping the hosts firmly at the bottom. Going into the game empty-handed after three games,
UAE began brightly, attacking from the outset. Their efforts paid dividends after 19 minutes, when Ismail Matar crossed perfectly for Jumaa, who coolly fired a shot past Iran keeper Seyed Rahmati. However, in the closing stages, Bagheri popped up to head Masoud Shojaei's cross past Nasser.
In their first meeting in qualifying for Germany 2006 four years ago, Korea Republic were beaten 2-0. But on that occasion the Sons of the Desert owed their victory to the emerging Yasser Qahtani, who had a hand in both goals. Not surprisingly, the absence of the influential striker had an impact, as the Saudi hosts were on the receiving end of a defeat by the same scoreline in Wednesday's rematch. The visiting Koreans took the lead 32 minutes into the second half, when Park Ji-Sung crossed for Lee Keun-Ho to score the opener. Park Chu-Young then saw his curling shot sail into the net to secure the three points in added time.
Player of the day
Ali Daei stunned his own supporters when he announced the return of his former national team-mate Karimi Bagheri, who retired from international football after Team Melli's failed qualifying campaign for Korea/Japan 2002. And his wisdom in recalling the defender was well justified, as the 34-year-old rose to the occasion to give Iran a precious away point.
What they said
"Obviously we won the game largely due to our attacking edge, offered by the trio of Keiji Tamada, Yoshito Okubo and Tatsuya Tanaka. They linked well with our midfield, where I did my best to provide them with ammunition. We did a very good creative job in midfield and also shored up our defence." Shunsuke Nakamura, Japan midfielder.