Saudi Arabia out, SKorea through in WCup

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

Brazil 2014.

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

six-point lead.

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.