Korea Republic, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar completed the line-up for the final phase of Asian Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ today, as the hopes of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain went from looking good to being cruelly extinguished. The successful quartet joined Australia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, and Uzbekistan, who won in Toyota to unexpectedly advance with the best record from the third stage.
The ten teams will now be split into two groups, with the winners and runners-up from each securing tickets to Brazil and the third-placed sides doing battle for the right to face the fifth placed team from South America for a place at the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup. FIFA.com reviews a conclusion to the group stage that was awash with upsets and twists.
Korea Republic 2-0 Kuwait
Lee Dong-Gook 65, Lee Keun-Ho 71
Reigning K-League MVP Lee Dong-Gook struck the decisive opening goal as Korea Republic battled to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Kuwait to advance, with the result also confirming the progression of Lebanon despite their 4-2 defeat by United Arab Emirates.
Playing in front of their home fans, Choi Kang-Hee's side were desperate to round off their campaign in style, but it was the visitors that got the better of the opening half, enjoying the lion's share of possession. Kuwait were on the attack again after the interval, with forward Yousef Al Sulaiman smashing the crossbar on 47 minutes. However, the game swung in the South Koreans’ favour with 25 minutes remaining, when Lee latched on to Lee Keun-Ho's cross to put the hosts ahead. Provider swiftly turned scorer, bursting into the area to fire home from close range and put the game out of the Kuwaitis’ reach.
Australia 4-2 Saudi Arabia
Goals: Alex Brosque 43, 75, Harry Kewell 73, Brett Emerton 76; Salem Aldawsari 19, Nassir Al Shamrani 45+2
Despite twice falling behind, three goals in the space of four second-half minutes saw the already-qualified Australia register a 4-2 win at home to Saudi Arabia. The result proved costly for the Sons of the Desert, who conceded the section's second qualifying spot to Oman, 2-0 victors over Thailand in the other game. While defeat away to the Socceroos wouldn’t have been unexpected before kick-off, what was was the speed of the Saudis’ collapse and the fact they missed out on the final phase of Asian Zone qualifying for the first time.
Needing victory to secure their progression, Frank Rijkaard's visitors got off to an ideal start when Salem Aldawsari twisted past a series of defenders to slot home the opener. Holger Osieck's hosts levelled before the break courtesy of Alex Brosque, but Nassir Al Shamrani struck in the first-half injury time to restore Saudi Arabia’s lead. Brosque continued to impress after the interval, setting up Harry Kewell for the equaliser before netting his second of the game to the Aussies ahead, and Brett Emerton put the seal on an impressive fightback 14 minutes from time.
The other attractions
In the other match in Group D, Hussain Al Hadri and Abdul Aziz Mubarak scored in each half as Oman overcame Thailand at home to book their first appearance in Asia's final qualifying round since 2002.
In Group B, Lebanon may have joined Jordan as debutants in the final round, but they needed favour from Korea Republic to do so after losing 4-2 to the already-eliminated United Arab Emirates. Captain Basheer Saeed scored the opener and the match-winner, while Ali Al Wehaibi and Ismail Matar was also on target as the hosts recorded their first victory.
In Group E, Bahrain were cruising towards a 10-0 thrashing of Indonesia and a place in the final phase. That was until Mohammed Kasola's late equaliser earned Qatar a 2-2 draw in Iran that took them through at the Bahrainis expense. (Given the unusual outcome in relation to the results-expectation and head-to-head history, and in the interests of maintaining unequivocal confidence in our game, FIFA Security will conduct a routine examination of the Bahrain vs. Indonesia game and its result.)
In Group C, the battle between two already qualified sides in Japan and Uzbekistan ended in the latter's favour, with Aleksandr Shadrin scoring the only goal on 54 minutes as the visitors stunned the hosts to finish the top of the pool. The other match between Tajikistan and Korea DPR ended in a 1-1 draw, with the central Asians clinching their first goal and point.
Finally, with only pride to play for, China PR defeated Jordan 3-1 at home to round off their Group A campaign with their heads held high. Former Schalke midfielder Hao Junmin was on target in each half to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, and although Abdallah Salim pulled one back for the visitors, Yu Dabao struck late to seal the triumph in a drizzling Guangzhou. Iraq, meanwhile, advanced on a high note by overwhelming the pointless Singapore 7-1.
Playing his first international following a self-imposed 18-month exile, Mark Bresciano had a hand in two goals, setting up Brosque for the opener before providing the assist for Emerton.
10 - Bahrain produced the biggest winning margin in Asia Zone qualifying for Brazil 2014, with their 10-0 triumph outnumbering Jordan’s 9-0 win over Nepal in the second round.
What they said
Yasser Al Kahtani, Saudi Arabia forward: "Our early elimination in Asia's qualifying is a shock to all. We played well and scored twice early on, but just as we were on course to win the game and qualify, we conceded three goals in four minutes to lose out. This was inexplicable, even if nothing is impossible in football. It is a painful ending for us all.”
Group A: China PR 3-1 Jordan, Iraq 7-1 Singapore
Group B: Korea Republic 2-0 Kuwait, United Arab Emirates 4-2 Lebanon
Group C: Japan 0-1 Uzbekistan, Tajikistan 1-1 Korea DPR
Group D: Oman 2-0 Thailand, Australia 4-2 Saudi Arabia
Group E: Iran 2-2 Qatar, Bahrain 10-0 Indonesia