Monumental results marked out the latest matchday in Asia, with upsets produced and surprises unfolding. Group B’s leaders Japan, needing just a point to seal their early progression, were denied after losing 2-1 at the hands of Jordan. Australia, meanwhile, were forced to battle from two goals down to earn a point against Oman at home.
Elsewhere, Korea Republic edged Qatar 2-1 in dramatic fashion courtesy of Son Heungmin’s stoppage-time match-winner in Group A’s early game. And it was Uzbekistan who restored their place at the section’s summit with a solitary-goal defeat of Lebanon. Join FIFA.com as we review these epic match-ups.
Final qualifying round, matchday 7 results
Tuesday 26 March
Group A: Uzbekistan 1-0 Lebanon, Korea Republic 2-1 Qatar
Group B: Jordan 2-1 Japan, Australia 2-2 Oman
Australia 2-2 Oman
Goals: Tim Cahill 52, Brett Holman 85; Abdulaziz Al Muqbali 6, Mile Jedinak (OG) 49 Despite being the underdogs before kick-off, it was Oman coach Paul Le Guen who cut a disappointed figure at the final whistle as his side threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Australia. Despite the stalemate, the Omanis can pride themselves on their record against the Socceroos in the campaign, managing two draws and a win in four meetings.
Australia took the game to the Omanis from the outset, but Oman were, surprisingly, two goals up shortly after half-time, courtesy of Abdulaziz Al Muqbali's early opener and Mile Jedinak's own goal. The two-goal deficit, however, only served to spur the hosts into life, with Tim Cahill pulling one back with a trademark header and Brett Holman eventually drawing his side level from long-range late on, in a goalscoring one-two reminiscent of the Socceroos' South Africa 2010 win over Serbia. The visitors had captain Ali Al Habsi to thank, with the Wigan Athletic custodian excelling throughout the second half - notably against Cahill on several occassions - to deny Holger Osieck's side a comeback triumph.
Jordan 2-1 Japan
Goals: Khalil Bani Ateyah 45+1, Ahmad Ibrahim 60; Shinji Kagawa 69
Jordan put their recent 6-0 loss against Japan behind them, producing the matchday's biggest upset with a 2-1 home win which denied the visitors an early qualification to Brazil 2014. Alberto Zaccheroni's side entered the game knowing a point would be enough to seal their progression, following Australia’s draw with Oman. And they came close with lone striker Ryoichi Maeda blasting against the crossbar with a header. However, it was the hosts who opened the scoring against the run of play just before the break, Khalil Bani Ateyah getting his head to Amer Deeb's corner.
Keen to revive their hopes with a win, the Jordanians doubled their advantage on the hour with Ahmad Ibrahim scoring a fine lone effort. Shinji Kagawa reduced the deficit for Japan shortly afterwards, and Atsuto Uchida earned a spot-kick to reignite their comeback hopes. However, Jordan keeper Amer Shafi saved superbly to deny Yasuhito Endo, with the hosts holding on to register a fine win.
The other attractions
Substitute Son Heungmin struck deep into stoppage-time to save the blushes for Korea Republic. Entering the home game against Qatar on the back of a 4-1 victory in Doha last year, the Taeguk Warriors laid siege on the visitors throughout the opening half and were unlucky not to open the scoring. The deadlock was finally broken, when Keunho caught Qasem Burhan out with a glancing header. The lead was short-lived, with Ibrahim Khalfan blasting home an equaliser. With so much at stake, Heungmin came to the hosts' rescue, ghosting into the area to score the dramatic match-winning goal.
Captain Server Djeparov scored the only goal just past the hour-mark as hosts Uzbekistan saw off Lebanon to maintain their lead in Group A, a point ahead of Korea Republic and four points clear of Qatar and Iran. After a goalless first half during which the hosts failed to carve out any clear-cut chances despite dominating, the Uzbeks dug deep and hard after the interval, with Djeparov's deflected effort earning them a much-needed three points.
Abdulaziz Al Muqbali has proved Oman's biggest revelation so far in the campaign and opened the scoring against Australia from an acute angle with what was one of the matchday's finest strikes. The goal, his first in the final round of qualification, saw the 23-year-old live up to his tag as one of Asia's emerging stars, having scored a hat-trick against Haiti last week and the winner against Syria in last month’s AFC Asian Cup qualifier.
6 - After the matchday both Lee Keunho and Ahmad Ibrahim extended their scoring tally to six, levelling Park Chuyoung as the continent’s second best goalscorers in qualifying.
What they said
"We headed into today's game with a determination to win and we worked hard throughout as we did it. It was a joint effort that finally carried us through. It was a hard game against Japan but we showed our best to get a good result. It boosts our confidence and we hope to continue such good form in the remaining qualifiers to reach the World Cup," Amer Shafi, Jordan goalkeeper.