Soccer: Late goal enough to qualify Australia

Carlos Quieroz. Photo / Getty Images
Carlos Quieroz. Photo / Getty Images

Asian giants Iran, South Korea and Australia scrambled into next year's World Cup yesterday after scenes of crowd anger and high tension on the final night of group qualifying.

Irate South Korean fans hurled water bottles and other debris after Iran booked their ticket with a 1-0 smash-and-grab win in Ulsan, following a tetchy build-up between the two teams.

South Korea also accused Iran coach Carlos Queiroz of making an obscene hand gesture at his rival Choi Kang-Hee, and said they expected a Fifa investigation. No comment was immediately available from Queiroz.

However, South Korea also went through when news broke that Uzbekistan, despite beating Qatar 5-1, had just missed out on goal difference. The Uzbeks will now face Jordan, 1-0 victors over Oman thanks to Ahmad Ibrahim's 57th-minute goal, in a playoff.

Australia left it late before substitute striker Josh Kennedy earned a 1-0 win over Iraq in Sydney, enough to take the Socceroos through to their third successive World Cup.

"I'm sorry it wasn't pretty, but we beat them ... Let's look at the positives tonight - we're going to Brazil," said captain Lucas Neill.

Iran, South Korea and Australia now join Japan, the Asian Cup-holders who booked their ticket a fortnight ago, at next year's World Cup as the only countries to have qualified alongside hosts Brazil.

Although all four Asian qualifiers are familiar names at the World Cup, the year-long elimination process has been hard-fought and came down to the last week of the final group stage.

Tensions were high yesterday and especially in Ulsan, where South Korea had promised to "make life painful" for Iran and to draw "tears of blood" from their captain, Javad Nekounam.

Ex-Middlesbrough striker Lee Dong-Gook tested Rahman Ahmadi with a stinging attempt from distance but despite dominating the first half, South Korea struggled to create clear chances.

Iran started the second period with more ambition and on 59 minutes, they were suddenly in front thanks to a defensive howler from Kim Young-Gwon and the alert thinking of Reza Ghoochannejhad.

- AAP

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