x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fifa World Cup: Australia, Iran and South Korea qualify

Teams leave it late to secure passage to Brazil, while South Korea lose to Iran but also make it through.

Australia's win has made it more difficult for Oman and Jordan to qualify for the World Cup. Cameron Spencer / Getty Images
Australia's win has made it more difficult for Oman and Jordan to qualify for the World Cup. Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Substitute Josh Kennedy’s dramatic goal seven minutes from time sent Australia to the World Cup finals for the fourth time yesterday, ending a nervous Tuesday night for 80,523 rain-soaked fans packed into Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.

The victory means Jordan have to settle for third place in Group B and a play-off against Uzbekistan despite beating Oman 1-0 in Amman.

Six minutes after coming on as a substitute for Tim Cahill, Kennedy rose alone in the middle of the penalty area to head Mark Bresciano’s cross past Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri.

The stadium erupted and Kennedy was mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated the goal that secured the win they needed to seal second place the group and a ticket to Brazil 2014.

“It’s amazing for the country,” captain Lucas Neill said in a pitchside interview. “Three World Cups [in a row] now. I’m sorry, guys, it wasn’t pretty but we beat what was in front of us.”

Australia, frustrated for much of the evening by their own lack of penetration as much as by the Iraqis, will now make their fourth trip to football’s showpiece event after 1974, 2006 and 2010.

Australia kept faith with the team that drew 1-1 in Japan and beat Jordan 4-0 in their last two matches to revive a lacklustre qualifying campaign, but it was the coach’s substitutions that ultimately proved decisive.

Cahill made his displeasure at being taken off after 77 minutes clear to Osieck, but Kennedy, who last played for the Socceroos in late 2011, vindicated the decision.

“You have to understand that no player wants to come off but it’s my prerogative as a coach to substitute players,” Osieck said.

Iraq’s hopes of qualifying were ended by last week’s defeat to group winners Japan. They finish bottom of the group.

Australia’s victory ensured that Jordan could only qualify in third place, at the expense of their opponents.

Both Oman and Jordan needed to win to keep alive Arab hopes of reaching next year’s finals alive and Ahmed Hayel settled the contest with a 57th-minute strike.

Jordan face Uzbekistan in an Asian play-off in September for the right to take on a South American team in a final decider to qualify for Brazil.

 

IRAN WINS BUT SOUTH KOREA QUALIFIES DESPITE LOSS

Iran qualified for the World Cup after another resolute defensive display helped them snatch a 1-0 away win over South Korea, who also booked a place in Brazil.

Forward Reza Ghoochannejhad was Iran’s hero, latching on to an error by defender Kim Young-gwon to score the winner on the hour with the visitors’ only real chance of a one-sided match in Ulsan.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz punched the air at the final whistle after their third Group A qualifying win in June sealed top spot and a fourth finals appearance after missing out four years ago.

“We played with a great team spirit and won. We were technically superior and decisive in the face of crisis,” Queiroz told reporters. “I knew it was going to be a difficult game so I took a practical approach. We took advantage of the weakness of our opponent and scored a goal.”

The under-pressure Portuguese had traded verbal volleys before the Group A clash with Korean counterpart Choi Kang-hee, who had vowed to beat Iran and force them to watch the World Cup on television after being “badly treated” in the reverse fixture in Tehran last year.

Choi, who previously said he would step down after the qualifying campaign, was more subdued after the loss.

“We advanced into the World Cup but it was not a clean finish. It is all my fault,” he said in a television interview after the game.

Korea finished as group runners-up, ahead on goal difference of Uzbekistan, who beat Qatar 5-1.

Choi’s side had only needed a draw to make it a ninth finals appearance while Iran started the day two points ahead of third-placed Uzbekistan but knew that a draw against South Korea and a four-goal win for the Central Asians over Qatar would cost them automatic qualification.

The visitors nevertheless chose to sit back and allow Korea plenty of possession, but hit them on a decisive counterattack when Ghoochannejhad raced through to curl home a left-foot shot on 60 minutes.

Despite their qualification, their was little cheer from Choi.

“I have nothing to say. The players did their best but couldn’t play in a way they wanted and prepared for,” the coach said. “I hope Korea learns from the World Cup qualifiers and improves in the future.”

 

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