Final three claim Asian Cup berths
Australia qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals with a 1-0 defeat of Indonesia on Wednesday, while Kuwait and Jordan snatched the last remaining berths at the tournament on the final day of qualifying.
Pim Verbeek's Socceroos dominated possession for long periods of their game in Brisbane but it was a solitary goal from defender Mark Milligan in the 42nd minute that wrapped up all three points. Australia topped Group A with three wins, two draws and a defeat to their name, while Indonesia finished rock bottom on three points.
"I can only be happy with the result, but of course we would have been happier if we had scored more goals," said Verbeek. "I think we tried everything to score more goals. Defensively we played concentrated and didn't give anything away, but attacking-wise we know it's difficult to play against a team that's defending with nine players in their own half."
In the other Group A game, Kuwait needed just a point from their match at qualification rivals Oman in Muscat to hold onto second place and they achieved just that with a goalless draw. The hosts dominated for large portions of the match but found Kuwait goalkeeper Nawaf Al Khaldi in fine form throughout.
"I'm disappointed as we have missed a chance to qualify to the finals," said Oman coach Claude Le Roy. "All the players were hoping to qualify for the Asian Cup and it was my ambition as well. This is the biggest disappointment in my history as a coach.”
“Dropping two points in the draw with Indonesia affected us,” he added. "We had prepared well for this game and there were a lot of conditions that could have helped us to win. However, we were not lucky and things didn't go as we wanted."
Kuwait coach Goran Tufegdzic believes preventing the Oman midfield from being able to dictate play enabled his side to battle for the point they needed to qualify. "We planned for this happy ending and we forced our tactics on the Omani national team," he said. "Oman were better than us in the game but we managed to stop them in midfield. We wanted to get a draw and we eventually managed to do so.”
Jordan win three-way battle
Jordan went into their home match with Singapore at the bottom of Group E, but they guaranteed qualification thanks to a 2-1 win that means they join group winners Iran at next January's Qatar showpiece. Odai Al Saify put the hosts ahead after nine minutes and though Singapore levelled four minutes after the break through Noh Alam Shah, Jordan secured the win when Anas Bani Yaseen struck just after the hour mark.
Thailand could have booked their tickets to Qatar with victory against Iran in Tehran but the side coached by former England captain Bryan Robson were defeated 1-0 thanks to Osasuna midfielder Javad Nekounam's last-minute winner.
Meanwhile, Syria sealed first place in Group D above China by thrashing Lebanon 4-0 in Damascus. The final game in Group C saw already-qualified pair Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates battle it out for top spot in the group in the Uzbek capital Tashkent. UAE ultimately prevailed after a goal in the third minute of injury time by midfielder Sultan Bargash, with the visitors topping the final standings on goal difference.
Earlier, Japan defeated Bahrain 2-0 to make sure they finished top of Group B, with both sides having already qualified. The Blue Samurai won thanks to a 36th-minute diving header by forward Shinji Okazaki and an injury-time strike from highly-rated CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda. In the other Group B game, Hong Kong drew 0-0 at home to Yemen.
Japan finished the qualifying campaign with 15 points after five wins and a single defeat, with Bahrain three points behind. "I missed a shot from Shunsuke Nakamura's pass shortly before, so I was determined to score that time," said Okazaki.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada also appeared relieved after the team's dismal performances at the East Asian Championship, where they finished in third place in front of their home fans. "We went into the game saying we have no excuse, we must win, and my players did exactly what I had asked them to do," said Okada.
"But we had so many chances. We should have scored more goals, but I'm satisfied that we scored another at the very end. Honda plays in quite a different style to old days. He also defended very well. His presence improves our performance."
Three teams qualified directly for Qatar 2011 by virtue of their results in the 2007 edition, being champions Iraq, runners-up Saudi Arabia and third-placed Korea Republic. 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winners India will participant and are joined by DPR Korea, who last week won the 2010 edition of the tournament. Aside from the host nation, the other teams to have qualified prior to the final matchday are Japan, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, China, Syria and Iran.