Iran Asia's first to qualify for WC 2022; South Korea on the brink, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Iran Asia's first to qualify for WC 2022; South Korea on the brink

HONG KONG (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS) - Iran on Thursday (Jan 27) became the first Asian team to reach World Cup 2022 in Qatar, while South Korea also moved to the brink of qualification for November's showpiece.

The Iranians secured the three points they needed with a 1-0 home win over rivals Iraq with Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, recalled after an earlier bust-up with coach Dragan Skocic, netting.

The match was also significant as Iranian women were allowed for the first time in almost three years to attend a Team Melli match in Teheran.

Ten thousand tickets, of which two thousand were exclusive to women, were available for the clash at the Azadi Stadium.

Meanwhile, Cho Gue-sung's goal yesterday earned Paulo Bento's side, two points adrift of Iran (19) in Group A, a 1-0 away win over Lebanon.

The Taeguk Warriors, missing injured star duo Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan, had to work hard to overcome their opponents.

But the victory means the South Koreans are at least certain of a place in the play-offs. Bento's men could have joined Iran in punching their ticket to Qatar but the United Arab Emirates, in third, beat Syria 2-0 in Dubai to move to nine points from seven games.

Cho scored the game's only goal when he latched on to Hwang Ui-jo's low curling cross from the left, with the forward steering the ball home from close range.

Lebanon were far from outplayed, however, with brothers Alexander and Felix Melki both striking the woodwork for Ivan Hasek's side.

In Group B, Australia thrashed bottom side Vietnam 4-0 in Melbourne but remain in third place (14 points) after second-placed Japan (15) downed a poor China side 2-0 at Saitama Stadium.

The Socceroos cruised past the Vietnamese, on zero points and out of the running, via goals by Jamie Maclaren, Tom Rogic, Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree, even though coach Graham Arnold was absent after going into isolation following his positive Covid-19 test.

"I can't be more pleased with the energy," said assistant coach Rene Meulensteen. "We knew it was going to be a challenge because that's what international football is about."

The Samurai Blue held on to second spot with victory over a Chinese side, on five points with three games left, that saw their hopes of a play-off place all but extinguished.

Yuya Osako, who also scored the winner in the "away" fixture back in September, which was held in Doha because of China's travel restrictions, gave the Japanese the lead in the 13th minute from the penalty spot.

His well-placed effort gave goalkeeper Yan Junling no chance after Junya Ito's cross had been handled by Wang Shenchao.

The hosts were rarely troubled by a Chinese side being led by new coach Li Xiaopeng for the first time after the departure of predecessor Li Tie last month.

With the visitors struggling to gain possession outside their own half, Ito added a deserved second goal in the 61st minute when he met substitute Yuta Nakayama's pinpoint cross from the left with a header that flew into the bottom corner.

Having completed the double over their rivals, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu turned his attention to leaders Saudi Arabia, with the sides meeting in a top-of-the-table clash in Saitama on Tuesday.

"Looking ahead to the Saudi game, tonight's match has helped strengthen our understanding as a team and that's a big plus for us," he said.

"But the Saudi game will have a different intensity and tension from tonight, and we have to be ready to play at a high level."

Only the top two nations in each of Asia's two groups are guaranteed to advance to the World Cup, with the third-placed finishers facing off in a play-off for the right to meet a South American side for a possible fifth Asian berth in Qatar.

IRANSouth KoreaWorld Cup 2022