Australia, Iran, Iraq into last qualifying round

Associated Press
Thailand's Datskorn Thonglao, left, is challenged by Australia's Luas Neil during their soccer World Cup qualifying match at Supachalasai national stadium in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

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BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Australia, Iran and Iraq are through to the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after they all won away matches on Tuesday.

Australia beat Thailand 1-0 to ensure it will finish at the top of Group D and be one of 10 countries to progress to the fourth round of qualifying. Iran defeated Indonesia 4-1 and advanced after Qatar was later held to a 0-0 draw at home by Bahrain, and Iraq won 3-1 at Jordan to go through and knock out China from contention despite its 4-0 victory over Singapore.

The 10 countries will be divided into two groups of five teams, with the top two from each group qualifying for the World Cup. The two third-place teams then meet to decide which of them goes into an intercontinental playoff for a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Uzbekistan, already assured of reaching the next round, scored two second-half goals in beating 10-man Tajikistan 3-0. Kuwait came from a goal down to beat United Arab Emirates 2-1 and keep its chances of advancing alive.

Lebanon upset South Korea 2-1 to move into a strong position to advance, while North Korea defeated visiting Japan 1-0 in a game with no impact on qualification for the next round.

Oman held Saudi Arabia to a scoreless draw to ensure the runner-up spot in Group D is still up for grabs.

In Beirut, Ali Al-Saadi gave Lebanon a shock 1-0 lead in the fifth minute but then conceded a penalty, converted by South Korea's Koo Ja-cheol in the 20th. Abbas Atwi restored Lebanon's lead from the penalty spot on the half-hour mark and his side held on.

Group B leader South Korea has 10 points, the same as Lebanon, which trails on goal difference after five games. Third-place Kuwait has eight points, while the UAE has zero.

An away victory at the UAE in the final round on Feb. 29 will guarantee Lebanon a place in the next round.

"First of all, this victory is for the Lebanese people," Lebanon coach Theo Bucker said. "We had belief in our team. Our football was much better than anyone believed until a couple of days ago. Lots of people were laughing about me here and in Germany."

South Korea coach Cho Kwang-rae blamed the defeat on a lack of top players including Arsenal forward Park Chu-young and the poor condition of the pitch. He also was critical refereeing.

"The main reason that we lost is that I lost some key players .... I don't think this was my strongest team," Cho said.

North Korea's game was more about a playing out of the political and historical enmity between the nations than it was about the result, as North Korea had already been eliminated and Japan had already advanced.

Playing before a crowd of 50,000 at Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pak Nam Chol gave North Korea a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute with an angled header beyond the reach of Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

It was the first time the Japanese men's team had played on North Korean soil since 1989.

The political tension bubbled over at times, with several shoving skirmishes breaking out. And North Korea had Jong Il Gwan sent off in the 77th minute for a foul on Atsuto Uchida.

The result ended the unbeaten run of Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who took over from Takeshi Okada after the 2010 World Cup.

Four of the North Korean players, including striker Jong Tae Se, were born into ethnic Korean communities in Japan, and bitterness still runs deep over Japan's 35-year occupation of Korea, which ended in 1945.

In Bangkok, Brett Holman scored the winning goal for Australia in the 77th minute, heading in a cross from Brett Emerton.

The game was played at Suphachalasai Stadium in downtown Bangkok because the larger-capacity Rajamangala Stadium is being used as an evacuation center for victims of Thailand's floods.

Thailand created several chances as the Australians picked up four yellow cards in the second half. The best of those chances came when Suree Sukha blasted a close-range shot over the bar in the 35th minute with only goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to beat.

Iran started as strong favorites against Indonesia, which has lost all five of its third-round games.

Milad Meydavoudi put Iran ahead in the seventh minute, and Mojtaba Jabbari and Gholamreza Rezaei added two more before halftime.

Indonesia captain Bambang Pamungkas pulled goal back before the break, but Iran captain Javad Nekounam converted a penalty in the 73rd.

China dominated play from the beginning and broke through in the 42nd minute through striker Yu Hai.

Singapore's best chance came when veteran striker Aleksandar Duric hit the crossbar in the 53rd minute. China quickly responded with captain Li Weifeng scoring with a header from a corner in the 56th minute.

China played with 10 players from the 67th minute after Huang Bowen was sent off for taking a swing at Mustafic Fahrudin, but was still able to add two more goals through Zheng Zheng in the 73rd and 82nd minutes.

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