The picture of Asia's third qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ became clearer after matchday five today, with Australia, Iran and Iraq progressing with a game to spare, joining the already-qualified Japan, Uzbekistan and Jordan in the last ten of the next stage, leaving just four qualifying berths from three groups to be decided.
The penultimate fixture, however, proved to be too little too late for China PR who went out despite winning 4-0 in Singapore, while Korea Republic were dealt a 2-1 blow against Lebanon which saw their celebration parade denied. Join FIFA.com as we review the thrills and spills from across the continent.
Thailand 0-1 Australia
Goals: Brett Holman 76
Despite losing away in Oman four days ago, Australia bounced back to defeat hosts Thailand. Brett Holman's second-half goal was enough for his side to register their fourth win from five games but coach Holger Osieck's visitors didn't have everything their way in Bangkok, where coach Winfried Schafer's side put on a fighting display throughout for their flood-stricken people.
The Thais went forward from the outset and they caused numerous headaches for the Socceroos, with right-winger Suree Sukha particularly potent and coming close to opening the scoring in the first half. At the other end, Josh Kennedy directed several headers on target but it was Holman that provided the difference, nodding home Brett Emerton's cross. While the win secured Australia's path through, it leaves Thailand in a three-way battle for the second qualifying spot with Saudi Arabia and Oman, who shared the spoils in a 0-0 draw at Riyadh.
Lebanon 2-1 Korea Republic
Goals: Ali Al Saadi 5, Abbas Atwi 31 (pen); Koo Ja Cheol 20 (pen)
Lebanon continued their stunning run in Group B under German Theo Bucker, avenging their 6-0 defeat in Seoul against Korea Republic by sealing a shocking 2-1 home win. Playing in front of their own supporters, the Lebanese got off to a perfect start when they went ahead on five minutes, centre-back Ali Al Saadi latching onto a rebound to fire into the top corner.
Coach Cho Kwang-Rae's side drew themselves level on 20 minutes courtesy of Koo Ja-Cheol, who equalised from the penalty spot. However, the VfL Wolfsburg midfielder went from hero to villain as he tripped Mahmoud el Ali to gift the rivals a chance of retribution from 12 yards, which Lebanon No10 Abbas Atwi coolly converted to restore their lead. The remainder of the game saw the Taeguk Warriors push hard but the absence of striking-ace Park Chu-Young took its toll as they lacked accuracy in front of goal, with the hosts holding on for a famous victory; their first against the east Asians.
The other attractions
In the section's other game, Kuwait came from behind to down the already-eliminated United Arab Emirates 2-1, pulling themselves back into contention. Fahad Al Enezi struck shortly after the interval to cancel out Ismail Matar's first-half goal, before Walid Abbas put through his own net to gift the hosts a much-needed three points. The result, coupled with Lebanon's win, leaves Group B the only one where both spots are still up for grabs.
In Group A's first game, defender Zheng Zheng netted a brace while Yu Hai and captain Li Weifeng were also on target as a ten-man China crushed hosts Singapore 4-0 for only their second victory. Their hopes, however, lasted just five hours when Iraq negotiated their way though with a 3-1 triumph with Jordan to claim the section's second qualifying spot and confirm China's demise.
Group E front-runners Iran continued their free-scoring form with a comfortable 4-1 win over Indonesia, with their progression confirmed later on by the goalless draw played out between Qatar and Bahrain in Doha. The latter two are left vying for the section’s remaining spot in the concluding matchday on 29 February, where the Bahrainis are facing a must-win match against Indonesia, while the Qataris need just a point against Iran to go through.
Elsewhere, in Group C, already-qualified Japan suffered their first defeat, falling in Pyongyang as hosts Korea DPR recorded a consolation win despite early elimination – Pak Nan Chol heading home the only goal shortly after the restart. In the group’s other game, Uzbekistan recorded a comfortable 3-0 triumph at home against bottom side Tajikistan to move three points clear at the top.
Lebanon captain Roda Antar played the leading role as his unfancied side edged out the strongly-favoured Korea Republic. The former Cologne playmaker had a hand in their opening goal while pulling the strings in the midfielder as they held off their group rivals.
16 - Their 1-0 defeat in Korea DPR has proved to be Japan’s first loss under Alberto Zaccheroni, who saw his 16-match unbeaten record in charge of the Asian champions brought to an end in Pyongyang.
What they said
"We put in brilliant performance away in Saudi Arabia as they enjoyed the home advantage and support. The point we gained keeps our hopes still alive and we will do our utmost in the closing game to progress. We obtained four points against the likes of Australia and Saudi Arabia and the good results come as a timely boost for us." Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi
Matchday 5 results
Group A: Singapore 0-4 China PR, Jordan 1-3 Iraq
Group B: Lebanon 2-1 Korea Republic, Kuwait 2-1 United Arab Emirates
Group C: Korea DPR 1-0 Japan, Uzbekistan 3-0 Tajikistan
Group D: Thailand 0-1 Australia, Saudi Arabia 0-0 Oman
Group E: Indonesia 1-4 Iran, Qatar 0-0 Bahrain