Japan, Uzbekistan advance in Asian qualifying
Japan, Uzbekistan and Jordan were the first teams to advance to the last round of Asian World Cup qualifying Friday, while Australia was humbled by Oman 1-0 and North Korea was eliminated from contention.
Japan beat host Tajikistan 4-0 and Uzbekistan defeated visiting North Korea 1-0 to send both winners into the fourth and decisive round.
North Korea became the first team from the 2010 World Cup to be knocked out of the running for Brazil 2014. Indonesia also dropped out of contention after losing 4-0 to Qatar.
Australia missed a chance to advance when it was stunned by Oman, which needed the win to remain in contention. Striker Imaad al Hosni scored from close range in the 18th minute and Australia was unable to equalize.
China was also on the brink of missing a third straight World Cup after losing to Iraq 1-0 while Jordan and Lebanon's surprising runs in the competition continued.
Jordan downed Singapore 2-0 to reach the fourth round for the first time, sparking wild celebrations in the streets of Amman. Lebanon, meanwhile, beat Kuwait 1-0 to sit second in its group and on the verge of qualifying for the next stage for the first time.
Bahrain held Iran to a 1-1 draw in a politically charged match in the restive Gulf kingdom.
Tensions between the two Gulf neighbors have been heightened after protests in Bahrain by the Shiite majority against the Sunni monarchy. Bahrain has accused Iran of encouraging the unrest, while Iran has denounced the Bahrain government's crackdown.
Security was tight Friday and eyewitnesses said Bahrain fans burnt Iranian flags outside the stadium after the match and threw water bottles at the Iranian players as they were leaving the field.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, revived its campaign with its first victory in the competition, a 3-0 win over Thailand for former Netherlands and Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard. The win moves it into second in its group, four points behind Australia.
Japan brushed aside Tajikistan in Dushanbe to preserve its unbeaten record in Asian qualifying. Striker Shinji Okazaki scored two goals for Japan, his second coming in the final seconds to put the final touch to an easy victory that keeps Japan atop Group C, ahead of second-placed Uzbekistan.
Yasuyuki Konno and Ryoichi Maeda also scored for Japan.
The loss was Tajikistan's fourth from as many group games. It reached the qualification phase only after Syria was barred by FIFA for illegally fielding a player.
Alberto Zaccheroni's team beat Tajikistan 8-0 last month, but needed a fortuitous rebound in the 36th minute from a save by Tajik goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev for Konno to break the deadlock.
A header from Okzaki in the 61st doubled the score, and Maeda struck the ball into the top corner to beat Tuychiev in the 82nd.
In Dubai, Lee Keun-ho and captain Park Chu-young scored late second-half goals to keep the unbeaten South Koreans on top of Group B after four matches.
South Korea beat UAE 2-1 at home a month ago, but didn't break the deadlock until the 87th minute, when Lee sidefooted into an open net. Park then slid into the goalmouth to bundle the ball across the line in the second minute of injury time.
''It was unexpectedly difficult, but our players showed their will and motivation,'' South Korea coach Rae Chong-kwang said. ''In the first half we focused on stabilizing our defense and midfield, and that's why we didn't venture deeper into their half, but in the second half we changed our tactics and it worked well.''
In Muscat, Oman striker Imaad al Hosni scored the winner in the 18th minute against the run of the play. Ahmed Hadeed sent a defense-splitting pass to Imaad, who hammered his shot past Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Oman, ranked 103rd, then managed to cope with the second-half pressure as the 20th-ranked Australians pressed for an equalizer.
Australia, which had gone into the match undefeated in group play, still leads the group with nine points from four games, while Oman has four points.
Saudi Arabia plays Thailand later in Riyadh. Thailand has four points from three matches while Saudi Arabia has two from same number of games.
With two games left, Oman's French coach Paul Le Guen said his team was on the right track.
''Though it is going to be a tough path, we are on the right way,'' he said. ''The team has displayed improvement and they proved it today. We need to recover fast and then be ready for the next game against Saudi Arabia on November 15.''
Iraq, which is playing its home matches in Doha, Qatar for safety reasons, broke open a scoreless match two minutes into extra time.
It took advantage of a Chinese back line weakened by the sending off of Zhang Linpeng in the 85th minute. That opened up space for the Iraqi team and star striker Younus Mahmood took advantage, racing into the area before drilling a powerful shot into the roof of the net, beating goalkeeper Jiang Bo of China.
China had dominated the match until the sending off.
Li Weifeng had several chances in the first half but lacked the finishing ability to score. Li came close in the 19th minute but his direct shot was blocked. The Chinese claimed a 27th-minute goal when the ball was bundled into the net but it was ruled offside.
In the 79th minute, China's enterprising midfielder Hao Jinmin's curling free kick was parried to safety by the stretching Iraqi goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid.
China now faces a monumental task to qualify. It is third with three points in its group - six points behind Iraq and Jordan, which was playing Singapore later Friday.
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