Qatar recovered from an early setback to hold Japan to a 1-1 draw at the Yokohama International Stadium but the point was not enough to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The visitors made a dreadful start when Ahmed Al Binali scored an own goal in the second minute but Ali Yahya cancelled that out with a penalty early in the second half. This was the final Group A game for the Qataris, who finish with six points, one adrift of third-placed Bahrain, who occupy the group's play-off spot.
Japan, who secured their passage to South Africa with a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan last Saturday, were without the injured Yasuhito Endo and the suspended Makoto Hasebe today. However, Takeshi Okada's side enjoyed the best possible start, taking the lead after just 96 seconds.
Right-back Atsuto Uchida latched onto a through ball from Shunsuke Nakamura on the right flank and surged past a sprawling Majdi Abdulla before crossing towards the on-rushing Shinji Okazaki. Al Binali attempted to cut out the pass to the Shimizu S-Pulse forward but the ball deflected off his right thigh and flew past Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
Japan went close to adding a second six minutes later when Okazaki shot just wide after Burhan spilled Keiji Tamada's low cross, while Kengo Nakamura saw his 19th-minute effort saved by Burhan. Yet despite playing without midfielder Talal Al Bloushi and forward Sebastian Quintana due to suspension, Qatar battled back.
An unmarked Magid Mohamed had already headed wide in the 10th minute and, in the 40th minute, Ali Yahya's attempt from outside the box flew just over the crossbar. Two minutes later, the Qataris had their best chance of the half as Majdi Abdulla supplied the ball to an unmarked Mohammed Abdulraab, who fired wide from the edge of the box.
Japan had the ball in the net again in the 44th minute but Marcus Tulio Tanaka's effort was ruled out as Tamada had handled the ball in the build-up. Qatar's endeavours paid off in the 53rd minute when they were awarded a penalty after Magid was brought down by Yuji Nakazawa.
Yahya sent Seigo Narazaki the wrong way with the spot-kick to level the score. Japan brought on midfielder Daisuke Matsui and forward Shinzo Koroki to regain the momentum but Okazaki's 78th-minute effort went too high and the frontman wasted another opportunity four minutes later when he turned Keisuke Honda's cross wide.
Honda, who had also come off the bench, had the final chance of the game but saw his effort from outside the box fly over the crossbar.