Jordan, the last Arab team from the Middle East still in contention for a berth in the World Cup, which would be their first, will take that fight to Tashkent after a 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan at Amman.
World Cup qualifying: Draw leaves Jordan a chance in Tashkent
AMMAN, JORDAN // Musab Al Laham gave Jordan a 30th-minute lead, but Server Djeparov responded five minutes later for Uzbekistan as the sides ended the Amman portion of their Asian play-off for the 2014 World Cup on Friday night.
With both sides chasing a first appearance at the World Cup finals, having finished third in their respective groups during the final-round group stage, Uzbekistan enjoyed the better start until Al Laham broke the deadlock against the run of play 15 minutes before half time as the midfielder started and finished an eye-catching team move, with Hassan Abdul Fattah the man in the middle.
Laham coolly slipped the ball under the goalkeeper, Murotjon Zukhurov.
However, Djeparov, the Asian Footballer of the Year in both 2008 and 2011, capped a fine individual display to hand Mirdjalal Kasimov’s side the advantage ahead of next week’s second leg in Tashkent, with the winner advancing to an intercontinental play-off with South American opposition in November.
Chances were at a premium at the start of the second half although Uzbekistan remained the dominant side with Jordan struggling for ideas in the final third to the frustration of the majority of the 17,000 crowd at King Abdullah Stadium.
Uzbekistan finally fashioned a half chance with just under a quarter of an hour remaining as Timur Kapadze flashed an unmarked header wide of the post from Jasur Khasanov’s right wing corner before Djeparov shot straight at Shafi soon after.
Jordan waited until the last minute of normal time to fashion an effort on target as a last-ditch sliding block from the Uzbekistan defender Anzur Ismailov denied substitute Odai Al Saify before Oday Zahran flashed an effort over the crossbar in stoppage time. The winner after Tuesday’s second leg in Tashkent will advance to take on the fifth-placed South American side in the intercontinental play-off for a berth in Brazil next summer.
Jordan would seem to be in trouble, if their results in Group B of the fourth round of Asian qualifying are any indication.
They had a draw and victories over Australia, Japan and Oman in home matches, accounting for all 10 of the group points. However, they lost all four of their away assignments, including a 4-0 rout at the hands of Australia when Jordan had a chance to move into second in the group.
ARMENIA DELIVERS A BLOW TO CZECHS
The Czech Republic’s hopes of making it to Brazil suffered a blow last night in their 2-1 loss at home to Armenia.
The Czechs now sit level with the Armenians on nine points behind both Italy and Bulgaria, who played each other late Friday night.
Tomas Rosicky erased a 1-0 deficit before Armenia’s Gevorg Ghazaryan struck the winner.
GHANA STILL HAVE AN EYE ON BRAZIL
A diving header from Abdul Majeed Waris and a long-range goal from Kwadwo Asamoah ensured a 2-1 win for Ghana over Zambia in their World Cup qualifier.
Ghana, quarter-finalists at the 2010 World Cup, would have been knocked out with a defeat and Zambia would have won the group. Next: a two-legged tie with another group winner.
JAPAN: Keisuke Honda, the CSKA Moscow forward, came off the bench to drive Japan to a 3-0 friendly win over Guatemala yesterday. Honda, who earlier this week missed out on a transfer to AC Milan, entered as a half-time substitute and opened the scoring five minutes later, heading home a Yuto Nagatomo cross at the far post. Masato Kudo and Yasuhito Endo rounded off the scoring with some nifty passing from Shinji Kagawa. “I would have liked to have seen more goals,” said the Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni. Japan next take on Ghana in a friendly on Tuesday in Yokohama.
FAROE ISLANDS: The Faroe Islands almost caused something of an upset in Uefa qualifying Group C when they took the lead away to Kazakhstan. Frodi Benjaminsen, the captain, stunned the home crowd when he scored the opener after 23 minutes at the Astana Arena. However, the hosts denied the visitors victory when Nurbol Zhumaskaliev and then Andrei Finonchenko struck in the second half to leave the Faroes bottom of the group with zero points and a minus-19 goal difference after seven matches. Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland are also in Group C.
AUSTRALIA: Archie Thompson, the Socceroos veteran, has made light of his comment that the Brazilian Neymar, who moved to Barcelona for €57 million (Dh275.3m), was overrated. Australia take on the 2014 World Cup hosts in a friendly in Brasilia on Saturday and Thompson livened up pre-match exchanges by saying he thought Neymar was overrated and his teammate Oscar was a better player. According to the Brazil media, Neymar responded to the Melbourne Victory striker in a news conference by asking: “What’s his name?” In a tweet from Brasilia, Thompson quipped: “It was the jet lag or the Brazilian reporter didn’t understand my Portuguese.”
GREECE: The Greek club PAOK have demanded the Albanian international Ergys Kace explain why he posted a photograph on his Facebook page supporting a Kosovan militant group. The midfielder, 20, is seen wearing a T-shirt of the UCK, the Albanian abbreviation for the ethnic-Albanian paramilitary organisation the Kosovo Liberation Army. Kace is depicted giving a thumbs-up sign with both hands. He has since erased his Facebook account after an uproar in the Greek press and has apologised for his actions saying the T-shirt belonged to a friend. “Those who know me know my character and know that I do not [support] the UCK. I respect Greece,” Kace wrote.
RUSSIA: The World Cup 2018 hosts Russia ensured their tickets to Brazil were still a possibility as they swept aside Luxembourg in Kazan. Two first-half goals from Alexander Kokorin set the hosts on their way before Alexander Kerzhakov and Alexander Samedov made sure of the three points with strikes either side of a consolation goal from Luxembourg’s Aurelien Joachim. Russia are in a strong position in Group F with 15 points from seven games, while Luxembourg prop up the table with three points from the same number of matches. Portugal, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Israel make up the other group members.
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