Better late than never! Thanks to the furious final stage of the World Cup qualifiers against Australia, the Japanese national team got their ticket to Qatar – for the seventh time. Coach Hajime Moriyasu’s team beat Australia 2-0 (0-0) in Sydney. Kaoru Mituma was responsible for both goals.
His props finally paved the way for the Land of the Rising Sun to reach the World Championships. Just five minutes after coming on as a substitute, the 24-year-old made it 1-0 (89) before clinching the win in overtime (90+4) with his second goal of the day. A number of Bundesliga professionals also participated, including Wataru Endo (VFB Stuttgart), Takuma Asano (VFL Bochum) and Genki Haraguchi (Union Berlin).
After nine out of ten matches in Group B of the Asian qualifiers, Japan is now first with 21 points – and can no longer be surpassed by third-placed Australia (15). Saudi Arabia (19) is also out of reach for the “Down Under” team. The nation, which shares a direct border with World Cup host nation Qatar and thus has a short trip in November, benefited from Japan’s victory. Regardless of their appearance against China today (4pm CET), the Saudis can firmly plan for the World Cup.
On the other hand, the weak Australians desperately needed a win to be able to step into the race for a straight ticket. Driven by Frankfurt’s Agden Hrostic, they were unable to take advantage of the few opportunities they had. Australia will now need to win two knockout matches in June to qualify for the World Cup for the fourth time in a row. The two teams in third place in Group A, the United Arab Emirates currently, then meet South American rivals in a possible final.
Before Japan and Saudi Arabia, Iran and South Korea secured participation in the World Cup finals in the other Asian qualifying group. In addition to the host country Qatar, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Croatia, Serbia, Spain, England, the Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina, their participation in the World Cup has already been confirmed. There are 32 teams in total.
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