Draws kept Australia,
Japan and Korea Republic firmly on course for Asian Zone places at the 2010 FIFA
World Cup South Africa™ today. The former pair played out a goalless stalemate
in Yokohama; a result that kept the Socceroos top of Group 1, two points above
their opponents, who themselves opened up a four-point cushion over their
closest pursuers in the race for the pool's two automatic tickets to South
Bahrain sneaked into third, above Qatar on goal difference, thanks to a last-gasp winner in Uzbekistan in the section's other game, and Korea DPR took advantage of their section-leading neighbours' draw in Iran to leap above Ali Daei's side and into second in Group 2. FIFA.com reviews the latest action.
Matchday 5 results:
11 February, 2009
Group 1: Japan 0-0 Australia, Uzbekistan 0-1 Bahrain
Group 2: Korea DPR 1-0 Saudi Arabia, Iran 1-1 Korea Republic
Game of the day
Japan 0-0 Australia, Yokohama, 19:20 (local time)
Australia remain the only team not to have conceded a goal in Asia's final qualifying round, after holding Japan to a draw in Yokahama's International Stadium. They preserved this statistic largely thanks to a combination of substandard finishing from their hosts and excellent goalkeeping from Mark Schwarzer.
Surprise of the day
Korea DPR 1-0 Saudi Arabia, Pyongyang, 19 November, 15:00 (Local time)
Mun In Guk (29)
Korea DPR underlined their status as Asia's dark horses by upsetting Saudi Arabia, who are 64 places above them on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The result moved the North Koreans up to second in the pool, but left their opponents languishing in fourth. Mun In-Guk scored the only goal in the first half, much to the delight of the 70,000-plus crowd, and despite a series of second-held chances for both sides, the Chollima held on for an unexpected success.
Iran 1-1 Korea Republic, Tehran, 11 February, 15:00 (local time)
Javad Nekounam, (58); Park Ji-Sung (81)
It came as no surprise that old acquaintances Iran and Korea Republic, who met for the 22nd time, employed cautious game plans. Consequently, there were openings, but after a Javad Nekounam free-kick put the hosts in front just before the hour, the hosts elected to sit back on their lead. This handed Huh Jung-Moo's Taeguk Warriors the initiative, and Park Ji-Sung rewarded this by heading home an equaliser nine minutes from time.
Uzbekistan 0-1 Bahrain, Tashkent, 11 February, 16:00 (Local time)
Mahmood Abdulrahman (90)
It was a game both sides needed to win, and that Bahrain did thanks to Mahmood Abdulrahman, who converted the only goal from a free-kick deep into the stoppage time. The victory gave the Gulf side a lifeline, while the qualification chances of Uzbekistan, who have just one point after four matches, are hanging by a thread.
Player of the day
Korea DPR captain Hong Yong-Jo again raised eyebrows. The 26-year-old Rostov forward, who had already scored four goals in the Asian qualifying campaign, turned provider, producing a clever back-heel to leave Mun In-Guk with a simple finish for the only goal against Saudi Arabia.
The numbers game
2 - The number of free-kicks scored in the four matches: 50 per cent of today's goals.
What they said
"It was an important match for both sides. We really wanted to win but we conceded a goal too easily. It's disappointing but I'd say I'm also satisfied with a point. We were fortunate not to concede more goals, and we scored an equaliser," Huh Jung-Moo, Korea Republic coach.