Japan book World Cup berth; Australia at risk

Japan qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Thursday evening after recording a 2-0 win over Australia at the Saitama Stadium 2002.

Takuma Asano put the Samurai Blue ahead four minutes before halftime, beating the offside trap to sweep home from eight yards out after being picked out by Yuto Nagatomo’s excellent cross.

The victory was then secured in the 82nd minute through a fine individual effort from Yosuke Ideguchi, who skipped inside a defender and made his way into the box before unleashing an unstoppable piledriver past Mathew Ryan.

The result was enough for Japan to claim a four-point lead at the top of Group A in the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying.

With only one game left to play, they are assured of their place at Russia 2018, but it is a far different story for the Australians, who are third on the table behind Saudi Arabia on goal difference.

The Saudis were in action on Tuesday and slumped to a 2-1 defeat to United Arab Emirates, leaving the second qualification spot in the group firmly up for grabs.

In Thursday’s other Group B clash between two teams already out of the running, Iraq condemned Thailand to a bottom-place finish after defeating them 2-1 at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Justin Meram fired the Iraqis in front in the 34th minute, but Thailand hit back three minutes after the hour mark when opposition defender cut only divert the ball into his own net as he looked to intercept a Tristan Do cross.

However, Saad Abdul-Amir made no mistake in converting from the penalty spot in the 84th minute to win it for the visitors, after Ayman Hussain was adjudged to have been brought down inside the area.

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