A dramatic last-minute penalty ensured Japan became the first team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ as they snatched a 1-1 draw with Australia at the Saitama Stadium. Alberto Zaccheroni's men knew a draw would be enough to secure a place in Brazil next summer, but that looked unlikely when Tommy Oar fired the Socceroos ahead eight minutes from time.
In an entertaining first half, Yasuhito Endo directed an early free-kick inches wide of the left post before blazing over the bar with his left foot ten minutes later. Japan continued to press and Shinji Kagawa forced a one-handed save from Mark Schwarzer at close range before the visiting defence managed to clear the danger.
Australia then found some momentum and produced the best chance of the half soon after when a superb through-ball from Brett Holman sent Robbie Kruse through one-on-one with Japan's goalkeeper. However, Eiji Kawashima came out on top of that duel before Tim Cahill blazed the rebound over the bar.
Japan threatened again eight minutes after the interval as Kagawa played across a ball across the box which looped over the head of Schwarzer and to the feet of Honda, who poked a shot wide of the right post from two yards out.
Kagawa came even closer moments later, curling an effort from the left side of the area which clipped the crossbar on its way out.
Japan continued to create all the openings but with little reward and they were punished eight minutes from time by Oar's somewhat fortuitous goal, with the midfielder's angled cross-shot dipping over the head of Kawashima and dropping into the net at the far post.
However, luck was on their side in the final minute of the match when Matt McKay handled the ball in the area. The pressure of a watching nation was on Honda, but he slammed home to spark celebrations.