Asia's automatic qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ have been settled with Australia, Japan, Korea Republic and Korea DPR securing a berth to the world's greatest stage. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have kept alive their qualification dreams and will compete in a two-legged play-off in September for the right to meet New Zealand.
With the qualifying sides celebrating and the eliminated teams left to bemoan missed opportunities, FIFA.com looks back at the most significant moments during the nine-month final stage.
Park ends Iran hopes
Korea Republic 1-1 Iran, Seoul, 17 June
A goal by Park Ji-Sung in each of Korea Republic's draws with Iran made a significant contribution to the Taeguk Warriors winning the group and also significantly denting Iran's charge. After helping his side to a point in Tehran, the dose was repeated in Seoul by the Manchester United flyer, whose equalizer nine minutes from time ultimately ended Iran's hopes of reaching South Africa.
Nakamura undoes Bahrain*Japan 1-0 Bahrain, Saitama, 28 March
*Having scored Japan's opener with a stunning strike in their 3-2 away win against Bahrain, Shunsuke Nakamura went on to grab the only goal in the return match, lifting a trademark free-kick over the Bahrain wall and past a helpless Sayed Jaffer.
Talismanic Schwarzer*Japan 0-0 Australia, Yokohama, 11 February
*Mark Schwarzer produced an unsurpassed performance between the posts during the final round as Australia maintained their unbeaten run to finish group winners. Amidst a seven-match stretch without conceding a goal, Schwarzer best showcased his shot-stopping talents in their goalless draw in Japan, when he repeatedly frustrated the Japanese attack to help salvage a precious away point for Socceroos.
Tadjiyev hat-trick*Uzbekistan 4-0 Qatar, Tashkent, 28 March
*After struggling to score goals in the second half of the campaign, Uzbekistan came alive at home against Qatar running out 4-0 winners. Relative unknown Farhod Tadjiyev proved the star turn helping himself to a hat-trick and putting his name forward as a future team linchpin.
*Uzbekistan 0-1 Japan, Tashkent, 6 June
*Japan clinched their fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance via the boot of the unsung Shinji Okazaki just nine minutes into the match against Uzbekistan in Tashkent. The Uzbeks were desperate for points in their penultimate match but suffered their third 1-0 home loss of the campaign.
Abdulrahman touch*Uzbekistan 0-1 Bahrain, Tashkent, 11 February
*The influence of Mahmood Abdulrahman played a key role in Bahrain reaching the Asian play-off stage for the second consecutive time. Abdulrahman scored the crucial goal for his nation in both 1-0 wins over key group rivals Uzbekistan. His injury-time winner in Tashkent proved a blow from which the Uzbeks never recovered.
Hazazi, villain-turned-hero*Saudi Arabia 3-2 UAE, Riyadh, 1 April
*After being dismissed in their 2-0 home defeat to Korea Republic and missing out on the next game against Korea DPR through suspension, Saudi Arabia striker Naif Hazazi bounced back to put in match-winning performances in the next two games. After scoring the equalizer in their memorable 2-1 away win in Iran, the youngster was again on target against United Arab Emirates, scoring a priceless winner with five minutes remaining to earn his side a 3-2 home triumph.
Drought broken*Saudi Arabia 0-2 Korea Republic, Riyadh, 19 November 2008
*With the home side down to ten men, Korea Republic's Lee Keun-Ho scored with 14 minutes remaining before an injury-time Park Chu-Young goal ensured a first win against the Saudis in 19 years to help the Koreans to an invaluable three points away from home.
Chollima have their say*Korea DPR 1-0 Saudi Arabia, Pyongyang, 11 February
*In a group of tiny margins, Mun In Guk's 29th-minute winner for Korea DPR at home against Saudi Arabia ultimately proved decisive as the two nations battled for qualification. The Koreans' backs-to-the-wall performance four months later in Riyadh earned them a scoreless draw and with it a first FIFA World Cup qualification in 44 years.
*Korea Republic 1-1 Iran, Seoul, 17 June
*The sight of Iranian fans in tears after their 1-1 draw against Korea Republic was a poignant and moving image for a nation who are used to success on the continental stage. Despite boasting some of Asia's most gifted players spearheaded by two former AFC Players of the Year, the talented side struggled throughout largely due to their inability to convert in front of goal.