x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Oman coach happy to take a point off Iraq

Oman play out a 1-1 draw in Doha, Qatar deny Iran victory, Australia draw with Japan and South Korea beat Lebanon.

Iraq's Samal Said beats Mohammed Al Balushi to the ball
Iraq's Samal Said beats Mohammed Al Balushi to the ball

The Asian heavyweights Japan, South Korea and Australia all took strides toward automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup by getting creditable results in regional qualifiers yesterday, but Iran were held at home by Qatar.

Japan drew 1-1 away to Australia, which will be grateful for a point after playing most of the second half a man down.

In the other Group B game, Iraq and Oman battled to a 1-1 stalemate in Doha.

Iraq were guilty of wasting several good chances in their draw with Oman, which was played in Qatar because of security fears in Iraq.

The visitors had taken the lead against the run of play when Mohammed Al Balushi leapt highest to flick home a free kick from deep in the eighth minute.

Iraq, trying to qualify for their first World Cup finals since 1986, regrouped and levelled from the penalty spot when Amad Ali, standing in the defensive wall, was adjudged to have blocked Younis Mahmoud's free kick with his hand.

The Iraqi captain stepped up to send a cheeky chip straight down the middle eight minutes before half time. With 10 minutes left, Younis beat two players but, falling off balance, fired a left-foot shot well wide as teammate Karrar Jassim also attempted to strike the ball.

"Playing against Iraq is always difficult. But I'm satisfied with the result, even after playing three games in a row without much break," Paul Le Guen, Oman's French coach, said.

Iraq's Brazilian Coach Zico said the team's hopes of advancing were still very much alive despite the draw.

"Chances are still there," he said. "But we need to work hard. As we're playing with lot of seniors who've been there for the last 10 years, Iraqi football needs innovation."

In Group A, South Korea won 3-0 at home against Lebanon to go top with six points from two games.

Lebanon have one point from three games and face an uphill climb to reach the World Cup finals for the first time. "Like I said many times before, we're not able to compare ourselves to the Koreans - they are far ahead of us," Lebanon coach Theo Bucker said after the match.

The winger Kim Bo-kyung scored twice for the Koreans as they moved towards their eighth consecutive World Cup finals.

South Korea and Lebanon both qualified from the same earlier group as the UAE. During that round, Lebanon lost 6-0 away to the Koreans.

Three UAE-based players were in the Lebanon side: the Al Ahli defender Youssef Mohammed, the Ajman midfielder Hassan Maatouk and the Dubai midfielder Abbas Ahmed Atwi.

Iran were unable to win at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, being held by Qatar in a surprise 0-0 draw.

Mohammed Reza Khalatbari, the Al Wasl forward, had scored the goal in a 1-0 away victory at Azerbaijan, but he was unable to break through in 45 minutes of play.

Tempers nearly boiled over in the 87th minute, when Qatar's Fabio Cesar confronted Khalatbari.

The table in Group A: South Korea, six points from three matches; Iran four from two; Qatar four from three; Uzbekistan one from two; Lebanon one from three.

In Group B: Japan seven from three; Iraq two from two; Australia two from two; Oman two from three; Jordan one from two.

The top two teams in each group qualify directly to Brazil 2014; the runners-up enter a play-off.

Qualifying matches resume in September.

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