Japan reaches 2014 World Cup, Oman closer to historic feat
Korea's stoppage time goal bolsters World Cup chances
Keisuke Honda made sure Japan became the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup by calmly converting a stoppage-time penalty Tuesday to secure a 1-1 draw against Australia.
Tommy Oar had given Australia a 1-0 lead in the 82nd minute with a lob over Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawasahima but a handball by Matthew McKay in the last minute of regulation set up the penalty for Honda, who beat Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer with a left-footed shot into the top of the net.
Japan needed at least a point to clinch a spot in next year's World Cup in Brazil from Group B in Asian qualifying.
"I have achieved one of the goals I was hired for," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. "But just qualifying is not enough. We have a very strong commitment to playing well so we will aim even higher in Brazil."
After a decades of never qualifying, Japan has now reached the World Cup a fifth consecutive time. They've yet to make it past the round of 16.
Japan reached that stage in both the last tournament in 2010 in South Africa, and in 2002 when they co-hosted the event.
Honda had missed Japan's last two matches — both defeats — but was his team's best player on Tuesday, even before the goal that saved Japan having to wait for the result of a later match between Oman and Iraq to see if it would qualify.
"Honda is a special player," Zaccheroni said. "He has two important qualities: he's strong physically and he's strong mentally. That was his first full 90-minute game since November and he was spectacular."
Both teams had great scoring chances in the first half, but Schwarzer got his right hand up to block Shinji Kagawa's shot from close range. Later, Brett Holman fed a through ball to Robbie Kruse who fired a right-footed shot that Kawashima knocked down with an outstretched arm.
Japan, eager to secure qualification at home, started the second half strong with Kagawa grazing the crossbar with an angled shot in the 59th minute.
Just when the match looked set to finish in a goalless draw, Oar silenced the crowd of 62,172 when he beat a Japanese defender on the wing and sent a lob toward the net that dipped inside the bar and past the flailing arm of Kawashima.
Schwarzer then stopped Yuto Nagatomo's shot from close range in the 80th minute before Oar put the visitors ahead minutes later.
Australia, bidding for a third straight World Cup appearance, has seven points with two matches remaining. The first two spots earn automatic berths in Brazil.
"We probably just deserved to get the three points," captain Lucas Neill said. "It's a bitter pill to swallow to concede a penalty at the death. We knew this is a fantastic team we're playing against, a very tough place to come and get points. We would have been delighted to get three, but it sets us up nicely now with one."
Australia fell to third after Oman beat Iraq. Australia's final two matches are both at home against Jordan in Melbourne on June 11 and Iraq on June 18 in Sydney.
"I think everybody is a little bit disappointed but I'm sure in the next few days, once we all calm down, we'll see the positives from the game and take it into next week," Oar said.
Oman 1, Iraq 0
Oman scored in first-half stoppage time to boost its chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
With time running out on an uneventful first half, Ismail al-Ajmi headed the winner past keeper Noor Sabri Abbas and striker Humam Tareq Faraj, who failed to clear it off the line.
The victory moves Oman into second in Group B ahead of Australia.
Oman and Japan only have a match remaining while Australia, Iraq and Jordan have two matches.
Oman had several counterattacks in the second half that nearly doubled its lead. Al-Ajmi fired a close-range strike from just inside the area that Abbas swatted away in the 60th minute and Abdul Aziz twice got behind the defence and fired shots just wide in the 80th and 88th minute.
Iraq rarely challenged Omani keeper Faiyz al-Rusheidi, as the Omani defence largely contained striker Younus Mahmood. The Iraqi captain had a good chance in the 87th when he took a pass in the area but fired a weak shot just to the right of the goal.
Iraq still has a mathematical chance of advancing, but is bottom of the group and its two remaining matches are against Japan and Australia.
Asia: Group A
South Korea 1, Lebanon 1
South Korea needed an equalizer in the seventh minute of injury time to earn a draw with 10-man Lebanon in a 2014 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
Hassan Maatouk put the hosts ahead in the 12th minute after some poor defending allowed the forward to collect the ball before firing low and hard past goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong.
South Korea soon went on the attack and the 2002 World Cup co-host was denied on several occasions in an inspired performance by goalkeeper Abbas Hassan.
In the second half, South Korea came close to equalizing with 18 minutes remaining as a header from defender Kwak Tae-hwi hit the post. Nine minutes later, the visitors hit the woodwork again as Lee Dong-gook followed up after Lebanon goalkeeper Hassan had denied Kim Shin-wook.
Finally, deep into injury time, Kim Chi-woo earned South Korea a vital point with a deflected free kick that wrong-footed Hassan.
A minute later, Walid Ismail was sent off for a second bookable offence.
The draw leaves South Korea top of Group A, level on 11 points with second-place Uzbekistan. Lebanon remains bottom of the group on five points.
Iran 1, Qatar 0
Iran revived its 2014 World Cup campaign and almost surely dashed the Qataris' hopes of qualifying.
After a sluggish first half, Iran dominated possession in the second and it paid off in the 66th minute when striker Rez Ghoochannejhad Nournia pounced on a deflection from midfielder Mojtaba Jabari and slotted home the winner.
Nournia almost doubled Iran's lead in the 81st but his breakway was thwarted by Qatar goalkeeper Qasem Burhan.
The victory left Iran tied for second in Asia Group A with South Korea for a time, but they moved back to third after the Koreans stunned Lebanon for a draw.
Mexico 1, Jamaica 0
Mexico got its first victory in CONCACAF's final round of World Cup qualifying Tuesday night, beating Jamaica on Aldo de Nigris' goal.
The Mexicans had drawn all three previous games, but the win lifted them atop the six-team group while having played one more game than four other teams, including the United States.
After a sloppy first half in which Mexico threatened a few times, but Jamaica did little offensively, de Nigris connected in the 48th minute. He put in a header off a perfect cross from the left wing by Carlos Salcido.
"We are happy with the result," said Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, who was under pressure after the three draws. "It has kick-started our campaign. We knew Jamaica is a fast, counter-attacking team, so we started cautiously.
"But we are happy with the three points."
Jamaica slipped to 0-2-2 and is last in qualifying. The top three teams advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth-place team faces a playoff with New Zealand.
The match was moved to Tuesday because, as regional champions, Mexico will play in the Confederations Cup this month in Brazil. The Mexicans visit Panama on Friday and also host Costa Rica on June 11, a busy schedule.
On Friday, Jamaica hosts the United States.
"Obviously we are disappointed, this has set us back," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. "We allowed the Mexicans to set the pace, they got comfortable on the ball and suffered the consequences."
On the goal, Salcido's was wide open on the left side and his soft pass to the top of the 6-yard box was nodded home by de Nigris past keeper Donovan Ricketts.
Suddenly, the Jamaicans found some energy when they fell behind. Jose Corona, starting ahead of Guillermo Ochoa in goal, made a strong save on Marvin Elliott.
But Mexico soon turned the game back in its favour.
With files from CBCSports.ca