Saudi Arabia out, South Korea through

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 Kasola Mohammed.

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.