The Socceroos were then in action against Oman, the game being played in Muscat. This game provided no goals and out with some remarkable saves from Al Habsi and Schwarzer provided not much action. Oman dominated much of the proceedings, especially in the second half and on balance of play should have secured 3 points. A tentative start for the socceroos, but a decent point for Oman. Paul Le Guen’s men now have a crucial game on Tuesday against Zico’s Iraq. Incidentally Zico was spotted smiling after the 3rd Japan goal against Jordan, clearly goal difference on his mind.
In group A meanwhile, Uzbekistan with their new coach Kasimov at the helm again (he has had a previous spell with the national team in the 2010 qualifiers) travelled to Beirut to face underdogs Lebanon. Uzbekistan started strongly and took the lead after 12 minutes with Hasanov picking out the bottom corner. However Lebanon came back strongly and got the equaliser before half time, Saadi with a delightfully placed free kick, low round the wall into the bottom corner. More missed chances owing to a lack of clinical finishing from Uzbekistan & some dodgy officiating from Abdullah Al Hilali meant the score remained thus till the final whistle. Lebanon’s first ever point in the final round of World Cup Qualifying, and they will be delighted with that. For Uzbekistan? Disappointment, when it seemed they could have easily secured 6 points from the first two games, they emerge with only 1 to show for it. Their final round curse seemingly remains in place, and they will need to take maximum points in their next few games to be in with a shout of direct qualification, the knee jerk replacement of Abramov who’s results before the 0-1 loss to Iran (which was hugely unlucky) were sublime leaves massive question marks.
The final game of the day pitted Qatar against South Korea. Bad blood preceded this game, owing to Al Sadd’s victory against Samsung Suwon in the semi final of last years Asian Champions League when Niang scored a very controversial goal to give the Qatari outfit the win in Suwon’s own stadium. Brawls broke out and the scenes were unsavoury and brought shame to Asian football. Al Sadd later went on to win the final against another South Korean team in their own stadium, this time it was Jeonbuk Motors who fell prey on penalties. So thus the back story was provided.
Today’s game was a fairly even encounter in the first half, although the scoreline does not reflect that fact. South Korea coming out 4-1 victors after initially going 1-0 down. In winning this game, however, they did not look anywhere near as impressive as Japan have in group B, but it’s a decent 3 points for a first game which happened to be away. Qatar will look to regroup against Iran in Tehran on Tuesday, a draw at least and they’ve come our relatively unscathed from the first 3 games. Meanwhile South Korea will seek revenge against Lebanon at the Goyang Stadium.
So the qualifiers are beginning to warm up nicely. Tuesday should bring the picture further into focus before we take a 3 month hiatus.