Favourites opened brightly in Asia's final qualifying round matchday one for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with Japan firing three unanswered goals past Oman to set the pace in Group A, while Iran and Qatar shared Group B’s leading place after each recorded a solitary-goal away in Uzbekistan and Lebanon.
Despite playing their debut in this stage, Jordan came from behind to negotiate out a 1-1 draw with Iraq, a result which leaves coach Adnan Hamad with much food for thought ahead of their next fixture in Japan. Join FIFA.com as we highlight the matchday’s finest moments across Asia.
Japan 3-0 Oman
Goals: Keisuke Honda12, Ryoichi Maeda 51, Shinji Okazaki 54
Alberto Zaccheroni's Japan got their final round campaign off to a brilliant start, thrashing Paul Le Guen's Oman 3-0 at home to move top of Group B. In what turned out to be a one-sided game, the hosts demonstrated their superiority over the visitors in every aspect as they dominated from outset to finish. The scoreline would have been even greater in the Japanese’ favour had it not been for some superb saves by goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. The resounding win extended Japan's unbeaten record against the Omanis to 9 games, with the result leaving the Asian champions supremely confident heading into their game against Jordan five days later.
Keisuke Honda opened the scoring for the hosts after just 12 minutes, flashing a left-footed volley between two defenders and past Habsi. With the opponents protecting their goal gallantly, Japan's German-based attacking proved their value by having a hand in their next two strikes. After seeing a first-half effort waved for offside, Borussia Dortmund forward Shinji Kagawa set up Ryoichi Maeda to double the lead six minutes after the interval. As if not to be outdone, Stuttgart hotshot Shinji Okazaki sealed the victory, pouncing onto a rebound to slot home.
Uzbekistan 0-1 Iran
Goal: Mohammad Khalatbari 90+4
Iran had Lady Luck to thank as they left Tashkent with all three points, as substitute Mohammad Khalatbari scored the only goal in stoppage-time to earn Team Melli an unlikely victory in a game largely dominated by Uzbekistan. After the early exchanges, Vadim Abramov's hosts began to assert their pressure with pacy attacks and dangerous passes. Victor Karpenko nearly broke the deadlock midway through the first half, before Alexander Geynrikh missed a gilt-edged chance, shooting at Seyed Rahmati with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The second half saw the home side continue their dictating pattern, seeing an effort crash off the upright before Odil Ahmedov's close-range shot was blocked as the Iranians struggled to keep the hosts at bay. With his side on the back foot, though, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz sent on Khalatbari on the hour-mark, followed by Karim Ansarifard to enhance their attacking threat. His tactical gamble paid dividends, with the latter surging clear from the right to provide the assist for Khalatbari’s match-winning goal.
The other attractions
It was honours even in Amman, with hosts Jordan and Iraq playing out a 1-1 draw to share the section's second spot behind Japan. In a fiercely-contested game, Zico's playmaker Nashat Akram put the visitors ahead on 14 minutes, catching goalkeeper Amer Shafi out with a wonderful left-footed shot. It took Adnan Hamad's home side nearly half-hour to find the equaliser, when Baha Suleiman unleashed a powerful drive which Iraq custodian Mohammed Kassid could only push downward. The first to the clearance was Ahmad Ibrahim, who made no mistake from close range to gift his side a precious opening point.
Elsewhere, hosts Lebanon saw their undefeated home record in qualifying brought to a close by Qatar. The visitors had the first chance when Ibrahim Abdulmajed hit the crossbar with a header after ten minutes but the hosts responded with Abbas Atwi smacking the post 18 minutes later. The Cedar began the second half in positive fashion with Mohamad Ghaddar heading just over. However, it was the Qataris that had the final say through a fortuitous chance, Sebastian Soria intercepting a Ramez Dayoub back-pass to the goalkeeper to settle the contest.
Having scored the only goal as Japan edged Paul Le Guen's Cameroon during their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign, Keisuke Honda went on to add the French coach's agony as he netted he opener against Oman to set his team onto the road to victory.
5 - Five of the matchday 1's eight participants began the final stage seeking to reach their maiden FIFA World Cup appearance at Brazil 2014.
What they said
"It was a tough game and we didn't have the luck to convert more of the numerous opportunities we had created. But I don't see it as two points dropped, because this was only the start of the qualifying and we will try to win the games to come," Iraq coach Zico
Asian final qualifying round, matchday 1 results:
Group A: Uzbekistan 0-1 Iran, Lebanon 0-1 Qatar
Group B: Jordan 1-1 Iraq, Japan 3-0 Oman