Iran's soccer team shows Mousavi support
The Iranian soccer team made a political statement in World Cup qualifying, but will have to wait and see if they still have a chance of advancing to the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
A late Park Ji-sung goal gave South Korea a 1-1 draw against Iran on Wednesday. An own goal early in the second half had put Iran up 1-0.
However, Park's 81st-minute equalizer means Iran's World Cup hopes now rest on the outcome of Wednesday's later qualifier between Saudi Arabia and North Korea. If that match is a draw or Saudi Arabia wins, Iran is eliminated.
If North Korea wins, Iran will get a further playoff in Asian group qualifying for the World Cup.
South Korea had already secured a berth at the 2010 World Cup by topping Asian Group 2.
The Iranian players took to the field in Seoul in green wristbands, the campaign colour of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Protesters have taken to the streets in Iran since disputed results in Friday's election returned incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.
One player, Ali Karimi, had green bands wrapped around both wrists. Captain Mehdi Mahdavikia kept his band on even during the second half.
Fans from Iran also showed their support for the demonstrations at home by staging a protest outside the stadium.
They unfurled a banner that read "Go To Hell Dictator," and chanted "Compatriots, we will be with you to the end with the same heart."
During the match, protesters waved the banner, held up green paper signs reading "Where is my vote?" and waved Iran's national flags emblazoned with the plea "Free Iran."
Australia 2, Japan 1
Tim Cahill scored two second-half goals as Australia beat Japan 2-1 on Wednesday to finish the last round of Asian World Cup qualifying with an unbeaten record.
Both Japan and Australia had already booked their berths for South Africa 2010 ahead of the final qualifier, and only top place in Group 1 was at stake.
Australia ended qualifying atop the group with 20 points, five clear of second-place Japan, and conceded only one goal in eight matches.
Everton midfielder Cahill reproduced his performance from the 2006 World Cup group match against Japan in Germany, when he scored twice to guide Australia to a remarkable comeback win.
He did it again in front of an estimated 70,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Japan dominated much of a lacklustre first half before unmarked Marcus Tulio Tanaka darted forward to head in a Kengo Nakamura corner in the 40th minute.
The Australians went on the attack early in the second half and were rewarded when Cahill equalized in the 59th after rising in the box to nod in a floated Vince Grella free kick.
Cahill capped a man-of-the-match performance in the 77th when he eluded the Japan defence to gather a Nicky Carle corner and knock the ball past Japan 'keeper Seigo Narazaki.
'I'm very proud of my players'
Cahill was back in the side after skipping last week's match against Bahrain with muscle soreness. Lucas Neill, who missed last week's match while serving a suspension, was also back for Australia.
"It's starting to sink in now. It's been a great campaign by everyone," Neill said. "This is great reward in front of a great crowd."
Australia's best scoring opportunity of the first half came in the seventh minute when a powerful shot from midfielder Mile Sterjovski was deflected over the bar by Narazaki. Cahill attempted to head in the resulting corner moments later, but it went wide.
Japan engineered several attacking forays in the Australian half, but its best chance came in the 19th minute when a Shinji Okazaki strike sailed over the bar after Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer sliced a clearing kick.
Neill prevented another Japanese goal moments before halftime when a he headed away a free kick from the goal line after Nakamura's spot kick beat Schwarzer.
"We had a great campaign," Australian coach Pim Verbeek said. "It's fantastic for Australian football. I'm very proud of my players."