Australia, Japan and Korea Republic became the first teams to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ today, and they did it with two rounds to spare in the Asian Zone.
Takeshi Okada's team sealed their ticket first by edging Uzbekistan, before the Socceroos joined them courtesy of a goalless draw in Doha. The Taeguk Warriors then confirmed their presence at a seventh consecutive FIFA World Cup thanks to a comfortable away win.
All that remains to be determined in the region is which two teams will finish third in the two sections and, consequently, do battle for the right to face New Zealand in a play-off for a place at the 19th edition of world football's showpiece event.
Matchday 8 results
6 June, 2009
Group A: Qatar 0-0 Australia; Uzbekistan 0-1 Japan
Group B: Korea DPR 0-0 Iran; United Arab Emirates 0-2 Korea Republic
Game of the day
Uzbekistan 0-1 Japan
Shinji Okazaki (9)
Uzbekistan pressed hard throughout, played some intriciate football and crated the majority of the chances. However, the better ones fell to Japan and, crucially, Shinji Okazaki managed to take one of them, latching on to Kengo Nakamura's overhead pass to head home in the ninth minute. The Central Asians threw everything forward in the second half but without the talismanic Maksim Shatskikh, they lacked a cutting edge. Japan had three players booked and Makato Hasebe sent off in the closing moments, but they defended resolutely to book a place at South Africa 2010.
Surprise of the day
Korea DPR 0-0 Iran
While there were no big surprises on Matchday 8, Korea DPR did manage something that had eluded them in their previous three meeting with Iran in FIFA World Cup qualifying: avoid defeat. With Ali Karimi back to boss the midfield alongside Mehdi Mahdavikia, the visitors looked the more dangerous side in the opening half, with Vahid Hashemian nearly breaking the deadlock with a volley just before the break. The hosts, though, emerged from the interval a different side and swiftly took the game to their opponents. Jong Tae-Se twice came close to breaking the deadlock, while Hong Yong-Jo and Pak Nam Chol also had decent opportunities. Team Melli's point was ultimately indebted to goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati, who produced some excellent saves.
The other games
Qatar 0-0 Australia
A point was all Australia needed, but they certainly did their utmost to guarantee a second successive FIFA World Cup qualification with victory. However, the Socceroos came up against an impregnable opponent in Qasem Burhan. Indeed, after Tim Cahill's 27th-minute shot had grazed the post, the Qatar goalkeeper made a series of saves from the aforementioned Everton player, Harry Kewell and Joshua Kennedy.
United Arab Emirates 0-2 Korea Republic
Park Chu-Young (5), Ki Sung-Yueng (37)
Korea Republic made light work of a side that had had nothing but pride to play for. Park Chu-Young put the visitors ahead after only five minutes, when he tapped in a Lee Chung-Youg pass from close range, and they doubled their lead 32 minutes later when United Arab Emirates keeper Majed Naser parried a shot into the path of Ki Sung-Yueng, who found the unguarded net.
What they said
"This away game was really tough but I'm really happy, because I'd only scored in friendly games previously. This time, I feel like I did very well for the Japanese team," Japan forward Shinji Okazaki
Player of the day
Coach Takeshi Okada surprised many by starting Shinji Okazaki in preference to Keiji Tamada. However, his faith in the young forward paid dividends as the 23-year-old rose to the occasion to head home the winning goal.
The numbers game
1 - With only two rounds remaining in Asian qualifying, just one team has been eliminated: United Arab Emirates, whose hopes were ended by a 3-2 loss to Saudi Arabia on the previous matchday.