• Japan beat Australia 2-0 to seal their place
  • Vahid Halilhodzic’s side join Iran, Brazil and hosts Russia in qualifying
  • Australia level on points with Saudi Arabia in second

Japan have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, joining Iran, Brazil and hosts Russia in taking their place at the global finals.

They did so with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Australia in a high-stakes encounter at the Saitama Stadium. Both sides had gone into the match knowing that the victors would be guaranteed a spot in Russia and it was the hosts who seized the initiative just before half-time when Takuma Asano sprung the Australian offside trap to volley home from close range.

The Socceroos pushed for an equaliser in the second half but created precious few opportunities and saw their hopes evaporate with eight minutes remaining.

That was when Yosuke Ideguchi scored a goal worthy of winning any match, charging inside from the left flank and curling an unstoppable right-foot shot into the top corner from 25 yards.

The strike sealed Japan’s place at Russia 2018, maintaining their record of having qualified for every World Cup since 1998.

Australia, meanwhile, must hope to beat Thailand in their final match and pip Saudi Arabia – who are also on 16 points, and host the Samurai Blue in their concluding encounter – to second place. Should they finish third, Ange Postecoglou's side will face a play-off against a team from Group A, with the winner progressing to an intercontinental play-off against an opponent from the CONCACAF region.