Fri, Sep 01, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Japan sink Socceroos, qualify for World Cup

AFP, SAITAMA, Japan

Japan’s Takuma Asano scores against Australia in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Saitama, Japan, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi were on target yesterday as Japan beat Australia 2-0 at home to qualify for their sixth successive FIFA World Cup finals.

Asano steered home a left-foot volley four minutes before halftime and Ideguchi sealed the victory with a stunning long-range strike after 82 minutes as Japan reached next year’s finals in Russia.

The result dealt a major blow to Australia’s chances of being one of the two automatic qualifiers from Group B after their first defeat in the final round of Asian qualifiers.

The Asian Cup holders get a second bite at the cherry at home to Thailand on Tuesday when they need to better Saudi Arabia’s result against Japan in Jeddah on the same night.

Japan survived a scare after 38 minutes in Saitama when a Mathew Leckie shot deflected off Maya Yoshida against post, before Asano struck a psychological blow shortly before the break.

Yuto Nagatomo whipped in a cross from the left and Asano ghosted in to beat Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan from close range.

The hosts effectively ended Australia’s hopes when Ideguchi cut inside to slam a right-foot shot past Ryan from distance for his first international goal.

“I was looking for a chance and Yuto put in a great ball,” Asano said of his goal. “That’s my job — to try and pinch goals, and I’m always ready to give everything for Japan.”

Japan had never beaten Australia in a World Cup qualifier in seven previous attempts, but the Socceroos rarely threatened in a disjointed performance.

“This is for the wonderful fans and for the people of Japan,” Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top