Japan, Uzbekistan and Jordan clinched places in the next phase of Asian Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with two games to spare today. However, Matchday 4 in the third round proved a bad one for Indonesia, Korea DPR, Singapore, Tajikistan and United Arab Emirates, all of whose chances of appearing at the 20th edition of the sport’s biggest event were ended. FIFA.com reflects on the latest developments across the continent.
The big match
Iraq 1-0 China PR
Younis Mahmoud 90+2
The encounter in Doha proved a carbon copy to the sides' previous meeting a month ago, with China pressing hard throughout but Iraq emerging 1-0 victors against the run of play. After an even first half, Jose Camacho’s visitors were looking the likeliest to break the deadlock, with Hao Junmin's brilliant free-kick coming back off the post, before Zhang Linpeng’s dismissal placed Zico’s team at a numerical advantage. The Iraqis made it count, with Younis Mahmoud, the match-winner in the Shenzhen, once again proving the hero by latching on to a through-ball in the closing minutes, holding off his marker and thumping the ball into the roof of the net. The result moved second-placed Iraq on to nine points, six above their opponents, who are all but out of the running to advance.
Oman 1-0 Australia
Amad Ali 18
Group D’s Australia arrived at Muscat expecting to seal an early progression with a fourth straight win. However, the visitors' celebration parade was postponed by Oman, who stunned the Socceroos with a 1-0 win to firmly pull themselves back into contention. The hosts emerged a different side from the team that had gone down 3-0 in the previous meeting, taking the lead on 18 minutes when Amad Ali latched collected a pass and slotted the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
The conceded goal obviously spurred Holger Osieck's charges into action, with Brett Holman firing home shortly afterwards only to see his goal waved off for offside. The Australians pushed hard for an equaliser after the interval but despite their dominance of possession, they failed to carve out clear chances as the resolute Omanis held firm for their first win. In another game, hosts Saudi Arabia put three unanswered goals past Thailand to leapfrog their opponents into second place.
The other attractions
Iraq’s success was most welcomed by Group A leaders Jordan, who confirmed their place in the last ten by defeating Singapore 2-0. In the process, the west Asians made history by reaching the continent’s final qualifying round for the first time, and the achievement is even more impressive taking into account the fact they are the only team to have maintained a 100 per cent record in the campaign.
In Group B, an under-strength Korea Republic were made to sweat for the majority of time in United Arab Emirates, with the hosts threatening throughout but failing to score. The visitors, however, had the final say courtesy of their superior finishing abilities, with two opportunistic goals in the closing minutes from Lee Keun-Ho and Park Chu-Young giving them a 2-0 win in Dubai which maintained their pole position. In the other game, Mahmoud El Ali struck the only goal as Lebanon downed hosts Kuwait 1-0 to move second.
Regarded by many as one of the toughest pools, Group C became the first to be decided, with Japan and Uzbekistan joining hands in progression at the expense of Tajikistan and Korea DPR respectively. In today's earliest match, Japan followed up their previous 8-0 demolition of the Tajiks with a 4-0 triumph in Dushanbe. In the other fixture, Timur Kapadze scored the only goal as hosts Uzbekistan clinched three points against Korea DPR, who became the first South Africa 2010 participant to be eliminated.
Elsewhere, Mojtaba Jabari struck a dramatic injury-time equaliser as Iran secured a 1-1 draw in Bahrain. Despite the result, Carlos Queiroz's Team Melli remain at the top of Group E, leading Qatar, who recorded a 4-0 home win over Indonesia, on goal difference. The defeat in Doha saw the pointless south-east Asians eliminated, but the Bahrainis kept their hopes alive with the point.
A super sub for Japan at South Africa 2010, Shinji Okazaki has thereafter established himself as an integral figure for his country. The Stuttgart forward netted his second brace in two games against Tajikistan, which extended his scoring tally to five.
5 - There was late drama aplenty during these fiercely-contested matches, with five goals coming in injury time.
What they said
Zico, Iraq coach: "China played bravely, but we won the match and the result has almost guaranteed our place in the last ten. The game went as we predicted. We knew China would attack, so we focused on defending in the first half before sealing victory late on.”
Matchday 4 results
Group A: Jordan 2-0 Singapore, Iraq 1-0 China PR
Group B: Kuwait 0-1 Lebanon, United Arab Emirates 0-2 Korea Republic
Group C: Uzbekistan 1-0 Korea DPR, Tajikistan 0-4 Japan
Group D: Saudi Arabia 3-0 Thailand, Oman 1-0 Australia
Group E: Qatar 4-0 Indonesia, Bahrain 1-1 Iran