x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Zaccheroni proud as Japan edge closer to Brazil

2014 World Cup qualifying: Uruguayan-born Suria fires Qatar to win over Lebanon.

Shinji Okazaki's late winner against Oman last night took Japan tantalisingly close to the 2014 World Cup, as Iraq also scored in the dying minutes to breathe life into their campaign.

Japan went ahead early in Muscat through Hiroshi Kiyotake but they were rocked by Ahmed Mubarak's free kick on 77 minutes.

However, Okazaki bundled in the decisive goal on 89 minutes to extend Japan's lead in Group B.

The Asian champions went eight points clear at the top of the groupwith only three games left, making progression to their fifth consecutive World Cup, in Brazil, an apparent formality.

"I'm pleased I was able to score because I didn't do much else for the whole of the match," Okazaki said. "We kept chipping away and found a way to win in the end. We weren't in control today so I hope we can dominate to beat Jordan next time."

Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni said the intense heat had hampered his players, but he was proud of their refusal to accept a draw.

"We had set ourselves the target of three points here, and I'm happy we accomplished that goal," Zaccheroni said. "The heat meant we couldn't play the way we're capable of playing. Oman showed a lot of heart but I'm proud of the way my team refused to give in."

Oman's French coach, Paul Le Guen said: "We played against one of the best teams in the world at the moment and we had a great performance so we are very disappointed with the result, the manner in which we lost," said.

"There still three games to play and we are still in the running to qualify."

In Doha, Iraq's Hammadi Ahmed also left it late against Jordan before he fired home a left-footed strike four minutes from time.

The game's only goal was enough to lift the 2007 Asian Cup champions off the foot of an increasingly tight Group B with their first win in five games.

"The match was very difficult. We had a youthful team at our disposal. I congratulate them for winning this," Iraq's Brazilian coach Zico said. "We badly needed a win to remain alive in the fray."

Jordan were left to rue some missed chances that could have given it the momentum early on.

"We have created many chances, but couldn't convert," Adnan Ahmed, the Jordan coach, said. "This is football. But this isn't the end of road for us. We hope that we can improve in our game next time. We still have three games and the door is wide open."

The loss for Jordan leaves them bottom of the table in Group B, nine points behind leader Japan while Iraq moved level with Australia and Oman on five points.

A long-range strike from Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Suria helped Qatar beat Lebanon 1-0 to go joint- second in Group A alongside Iran and South Korea on seven points.

Suria took a pass from Fabio Cesar and fired the ball from 20 yards out, sending it curling past Abbas Hassan, the goalkeeper.

Uzbekistan are the new leaders of the group after they shocked Iran 1-0 in Tehran thanks to a 71st minute goal from Ulugbek Bakaev.

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