The curtain was brought down on Asia's mammoth, 24-month qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with Australia, Korea Republic and Iran progressing from Tuesday’s closing matchday to join Japan at next year's global showpiece.
Elsewhere, despite defeating Qatar 5-1, Uzbekistan had to settle for a third-place play-off against Jordan from Group B, who finished third after edging Oman 1-0 at home. The two-legged showdown is expected to be played on 6 and 10 September, where the winners advance to a meeting with the fifth placed side from CONMEBOL for a spot at the FIFA World Cup.
Josh Kennedy came to Australia's rescue, coming off the bench to head home the only goal of the game seven minutes from time which sealed the hosts' progression to Brazil 2014. Facing a weakened Iraq side at home, the hosts entered the game targeting an emphatic win. But the visitors, with little to play for but their pride, put in some plucky displays as they kept the expectant hosts at bay.
The Socceroos fired on all cylinders after the restart, laying siege to the Iraq goal but failed to create a clear-cut chance. Vladimir Petrovic's young charges, meanwhile, began to counter-attack the Australians. With the hosts beginning to worry, Osieck made a bold change replacing Tim Cahill with Kennedy. And his tactical gamble paid off in just five minutes, when the towering forward popping up to meet Mark Bresciano's pinpoint cross.
Goals: Bahodir Nasimov 60, 74, Oleg Zoteev 72, Odil Ahmedov 87, Ulugbek Bakaev 90+1; Abdulqadir Ilyas 37
Uzbekistan produced one of their finest showings in this campaign, coming from behind to thrash Qatar 5-1. The result, coupled with Korea Republic’s 1-0 loss to Iran, left the Uzbeks level with the Taeguk Warriors on 14 points only to see the latter progress on goal difference.
Over 30 shots, which ended in five goals and the woodwork being rattled on three separate occasions, illustrated the hosts' hard work as they targeted a big win. Indeed, the Uzbeks began brightly but having squandered a series of glorious chances, it was the visitors that took the lead when Abdulqadir Ilyas caught Ignatiy Nesterov out with a curling shot.
Frustrated they may have been, but the home side saw their hopes rekindled by a pair of substitutes. With his first touch of the ball, Bahodir Nasimov drew the hosts level and after Oleg Zoteev gave his side the lead, the Uzbekistan No2 latched onto a clearance to make it 3-1. Odil Ahmedov scored from an acute angle to put the game beyond doubt, before Ulugbek Bakaev sealed the triumph by tapping in from close range.
The other attractions
Having seen their hopes shattered by a Park Jisung equaliser in a 1-1 draw in Korea Republic on the road to South Africa 2010, a resolute Iran avenged that defeat by defeating the same opponents by a Reza Ghoochannejhad goal. Choi Kanghee's home side were dominant throughout, but against the run of play Ghoochannejhad stole the ball from Kim Younggwon, before cutting into the box and sealing the victory with what was their first shot on goal.
Elsewhere, Jordan put last week's 4-0 loss in Australia behind them, rallying to overcome Oman with Ahmad Hayel heading home the only goal. The result, allied with Australia's victory over Iraq, saw Jordan edge the Omanis by a single point to finish in third place. The visitors had the better of the opening half, but the hosts upped the tempo after the restart, with Hayel grabbing the match-winner with a spectacular diving header.
Reza Ghoochannejhad emerged as Iran's biggest revelation in this campaign, netting his third goal in as many games as Iran stunned their rivals. Having broken his international duck with a brace against Lebanon in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier this February, the 25-year-old Standard Liege marksman netted in their recent defeats of Qatar and Lebanon respectively, before scoring the goal which sealed their fourth FIFA World Cup appearance.
2 - Iran are Asia’s meanest defence having conceded just two goals during the fourth and final stage of qualification.
What they said
''This is very special for me for a number of reasons. I like working for Australian football and I am very happy living here. Hopefully after today's victory I will enjoy at least one more year," Australia coach Holger Osieck.