World Cup Hopes Hang in the Balance for Japan, Australia
Image Credit: Flickr (gowestphoto)

World Cup Hopes Hang in the Balance for Japan, Australia


If nothing else, upsets and advances made last night an eventful one for the 2014 World Cup qualifying round now taking place in Asia.

In Group A, proceedings concluded without any major incident, with Uzbekistan defeating Lebanon 1-0 and South Korea edging ahead of Qatar 2-1, thanks to a goal by poster-boy Son Heung-Min in the 97th minute. Both winners are likely to claim the two qualifying spots in their group.

For Group B, things were a bit more interesting. Perhaps Group B’s biggest surprise was the outcome of Japan’s match with Jordan. Leading into the showdown, chances looked good for Japan. Yet despite hopes that Japan would be the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, Jordan came through with a shocking 2-1 win, stopping the Samurai Blue in their tracks.

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After a good initial run – four wins and one draw – when they arrived in Amman, Japan led Group B by a solid margin of seven points. One more point would have booked their trip to Brazil. However, Jordan surprised fans with the upset victory, rocketing from last place in the group to second and leaving Japan’s World Cup fate uncertain.

There were a handful of close calls – Ryoichi Maeda headed a ball that hit the goal’s crossbar while Hiroshi Kiyotake, Makoto Hasebe and Shinji Kagawa all came close – but in the end goals by Jordan’s Khalil Bani Ateyah and Ahmad Ibrahim put Jordan in the lead 2-0. Kagawa did manage one goal with 21 minutes remaining, but other attempts on goal failed, including Yasuhito Endo’s missed penalty kick.

“We played well, controlled the game and created many chances but we were not lucky and we couldn't score except for the once,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters. “Jordan were lucky today and they scored two goals from the few chances that they had in the game.”

Lucky or not, this was a huge win for Jordan. “This was a historic win for Jordanian football,” Jordan coach Adnan Hamad told reporters.

Meanwhile, Australia’s draw with Oman also surprised many. After an early goal by Oman’s Abdul Aziz Mubarak just six minutes into the game, things did not look good for the Socceroos. By the four-minute mark of the second half, the lead has increased to 2-0 for Oman following an own goal by Mile Jedinak.

Thanks to a burst of effort that led Australia’s Tim Cahill to score with a header three minutes later, followed by a late, blazing goal from outside the box by Brett Holman, the Socceroos managed to avert a loss. Still, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck was none too pleased.

“We had different hopes going into the game … this isn't what we expected,” Osieck said. “The first half wasn’t according to plan and we almost paid dearly. We didn’t break through, we always passed backwards, we delayed our game and there was no penetration. But the spirit was back in the second half and we had our chances.”

In the wake of last night’s matches, Japan still leads group B with 13 points, Jordan has seven, while Australia and Oman have six and Iraq has five. Uzbekistan leads Group A, with South Korea in second.

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