Heavyweights take points in Asia qualifiers

BY foxsports • June 12, 2012

Asian heavyweights Japan, South Korea and Australia all took strides toward automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup by earning creditable results on Tuesday.

Iran, another one of the favorites to advance, was forced to settle for a 0-0 draw against Qatar.

Japan drew 1-1 away to Australia, which will be grateful for a point after playing most of the second half a man down. Japan tops Group B with seven points from two games with Australia in second with two points from two games. Iraq and Oman were also on two points after drawing 1-1.

South Korea won 3-0 at home against Lebanon to lead Group A with two wins from two games. Iran and Qatar were two points behind while Lebanon and Uzbekistan had one point each and face an uphill task to make the top two and qualify automatically for Brazil 2014.

In Brisbane, Luke Wilkshire's 70th-minute penalty allowed 10-man Australia to salvage a draw against Japan in a game strewn with contentious refereeing decisions.

Australia played a man down after substitute Mark Milligan picked up a harsh second booking in the 55th, and Japan capitalized 10 minutes later when Keisuke Honda dribbled in and passed perfectly across the face of goal for Yuzo Kurihara to tap in.

Wilkshire equalized five minutes later after Saudi referee Khalil Al Ghamdi awarded a questionable penalty against Atsuto Uchida for pulling back Alex Brosque on the goal-line as Australia took a corner.

Japan also finished the game with 10 men after goalscorer Kurihara received his second yellow for bundling Brosque to the ground in an off-the-ball incident.

The refereeing drama went right to the wire: Honda was lining up a free kick only for Ghamdi to decide he was taking too long to take the shot and blew the whistle for fulltime, to the bemusement of Japan's players and bench.

''The way things went with the red card, we had to dig in,'' Australia captain Lucas Neill said. ''A little bit of Aussie spirit came into play. We could have gone on to win it (but) we'll take the draw. Both teams will be happy with it.

''This is arguably the best Japanese team that's ever been put out, let's give credit to the Australian boys.''

Honda agreed it was a good result.

''A 1-1 draw away is not a bad result,'' Honda said. ''They have a lot of experienced players and controlled the pace at the start but we gradually got into the game and found our rhythm. We had more chances from midway through the second half until the end.''

Oman kept alive its hopes of advancing by drawing with Iraq.

Oman, which also drew with Australia last week, struck in the eighth minute when Mohammed al-Balushi headed home a cross from Hussain Ali al-Hadhri.

Iraq star striker Younis Mahmoud equalized in the 37th from the penalty spot, awarded after Oman defender Abdul al-Mukhaini was called for a handball.

''Playing against Iraq is always difficult. But I'm satisfied with the result, even after playing three games in a row without much break,'' Oman coach Paul Le Guen said.

Iraq coach Zico said the team's hopes of advancing were still good.

''We need to work hard a lot,'' Zico said. ''As we're playing with lot of seniors who've been there for the last 10 years, Iraqi football needs innovation.''

Qatar served as Iraq's home ground as FIFA has banned Iraq from hosting internationals because of safety concerns in the war-torn country. The temperature for much of the match was above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F), since Iraq didn't have the luxury that Qatar had last week of playing in the country's only air-conditioned stadium.

In Goyang, Kim Bo-kyoung scored the opening two goals as South Korea made it two wins from two to take command in Group A.

Despite losing midfielder Ki Sung-yeung to injury early on, Kim opened the scoring in the 29th when his shot went in off the crossbar.

Lebanon attacks were few and far between and just two minutes after the restart, Kim collected the ball on the halfway line and out-ran the defenders to score his second.

Koo Ja-cheol capped the scoring as regulation time expired, stripping the ball from a too-casual Lebanon defender and lashing in a fierce shot.

''We are not able to compare ourselves with Korea,'' Lebanon coach Theo Bucker said. ''They are far ahead of us in many aspects.''

Qatar survived an onslaught from Iran to secure a goal-less draw. Iran wasted the bulk of possession and good chances, thanks in part to Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan. It has scored only once in its first two matches.

''It was difficult as I had expected. But it was a game that moved only in one direction: Towards the Qatar goal,'' Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. ''Our inability to find the target cost us two points.''


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