Saudi Arabia crashed out of World Cup qualifying with a 4-2 loss
away to Australia on Wednesday, as Oman progressed to the final
round of Asian qualifiers at its neighbor’s expense.
Another Asian powerhouse, South Korea, escaped the same fate as
the Saudis by beating Kuwait 2-0. South Korea entered the game
knowing a loss could result in early elimination, and had a nervous
game before scoring twice midway through the second half.
Qatar scored a late equalizer to draw 2-2 with Iran and advance
despite Bahrain beating Indonesia 10-0. Bahrain needed to make up a
nine-goal deficit and for Qatar to lose to go through.
Bahrain midfielder Sayed Dhiya scored four goals and striker
Mohamed Tayeb added a hat trick for the Gulf nation, which also
just missed out on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup after losing
to New Zealand in an intercontinental playoff.
Going into the final day of round three qualifiers, Saudi Arabia
was a point ahead of Oman and two points ahead of Thailand, with
the latter two playing in a simultaneous game, and the Saudis
looked like progressing when they led 2-1 entering the final 20
minutes of the match in Melbourne.
However Australia scored three times in four minutes to turn the
match on its head, and drop Saudi Arabia down to third in the group
behind Oman, which beat Thailand 2-0.
In Seoul, Lee Dong-gook, who has been restored as South Korea’s
key striker under new coach Choi Kang-hee, put the hosts ahead in
the 66th minute and Lee Keun-ho made it 2-0 in the 72nd.
As it turned out, South Korea need not have worried about the
result, as second-placed Lebanon lost 4-2 at the United Arab
Emirates. Lebanon progressed to the final round anyway, finishing
with 10 points against Kuwait’s eight.
Saudi Arabia had been considered a pre-eminent power in Middle
East football, but it didn’t qualify for South Africa 2010 and now
has been eliminated at an even earlier stage of qualifying for
The premature elimination would also leave the career of its
coach Frank Rijkaard – former manager of the Netherlands and
Barcelona – at the crossroads.
Australia was already assured of a place in the next stage and
top spot in the group, entering the Melbourne match with a
Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring for Saudi Arabia in the 19th
minute before Alex Brosque equalized for the hosts in the 43rd.
Nasser Al Shamrani put the visitors back ahead in first-half
stoppage time. However he spurned a good chance in the 72nd minute,
and that was the cue for Australia’s onslaught.
Japan-based Brosque provided the last pass for Harry Kewell’s
left-footed equalizer in the 73rd, making it 2-2. Brosque scored
again in the 75th and Brett Emerton made it 4-2 with a sliding goal
a minute later.
Meanwhile in Muscat, both Oman – coached by former Cameroon and
Lyon manager Paul Le Guen – and Thailand were chasing a victory
they needed to reach the next round, knowing a draw would not have
been enough for either team.
Midfielder Hussain al-Hadhri opened the scoring in the 10th
minute for Oman and then midfielder Adbul al-Muqbali made sure of
the victory in the 90th minute.
In Tehran, Iran midfielder Ashkan Dejagah scored in the fourth
minute from a header before Khalfan Ibrahim equalized from the
penalty spot five minutes later. Dejagah put Iran ahead in the 50th
minute from a free kick, but Qatar leveled in the 83rd through
defender Mohammed Kasola.
Iran had already advanced to the next stage.
In other games with no impact on fourth-round places:
already-eliminated China had a 3-1 home win over a Jordan team that
had booked its place in the next stage, Uzbekistan won 1-0 at Japan
in a clash of the top teams in Group C, and Tajikistan secured its
only point of third-round qualifying by drawing 1-1 at home against
another also-ran in North Korea.
Iraq, which had already qualfied, routed Singapore 7-1.