Japan ended Qatar's faint hopes of a place at the 2010 World Cup with a 1-1 home draw in an Asian qualifier yesterday. The Japanese had booked a spot in the South Africa tournament by beating Uzbekistan 1-0 away last weekend. Qatar needed to win to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time via a play-off spot. Japan went in front after just three minutes in Yokohama courtesy of an own goal from Ahmed Ali Albinali but the Qataris equalised through an Ali Yahya penalty in the 53rd minute.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada, banned from the bench for the match after a touchline outburst in Tashkent, apologised to the fans in a post-match ceremony. "I deeply apologise for failing to win," Okada said with a deep bow. "I didn't use the players correctly and we need to put it right for our last game against Australia [in Melbourne on June 17]." Japan playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura was similarly critical of the team's display.
"We wasted a lot of energy tonight by making things too difficult," the midfielder said. "We wore ourselves out and still have a lot of areas to improve on." Australia, meanwhile, maintained their unbeaten record in the final round of the qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Bahrain at the Olympic stadium yesterday. Midfielder Mile Sterjovski broke the deadlock when he scored in the 55th minute and left back David Carney sealed the Group One win with a goal in the 88th.
Bahrain are still in the hunt to reach their first World Cup but need a point from their last match against Uzbekistan next week to be absolutely sure of making the play-offs. Australia fielded a mostly second-string team having already secured their place at next year's World Cup when they held Qatar to a goalless draw in Doha at the weekend. After a slow start the home side took control of the match in the second half despite squandering a series of chances to win by a bigger margin.
"I think we created enough chances to score more than two goals," the Australia coach Pim Verbeek said. "We were probably not really sharp enough to finish it off." South Korea drew 0-0 with Saudi Arabia in their qualifier yesterday after the visitors lost Ahmed Ateef in the 80th minute following a second yellow card. South Korea qualified for their seventh consecutive World Cup finals on Saturday after beating the United Arab Emirates 2-0 in a Group Two qualifier.