Iraq fall at last hurdle as UAE and Aussie qualify for play-off

March 30 – Iraqi dreams of progressing to the Qatar 2022 play-offs were shattered in the final round of Asian World Cup qualifying as they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Syria.

The UAE, who held the play off position in Group B going into the last match of qualifying, pulled off one of the results of the final round beating South Korea 1-0 in Dubai. This left the South Koreans second in their group behind Iran who completed qualifying with a comfortable 2-0 win over Lebanon.

The UAE will now face Australia in June 7 in the Asian play off for the right to play Peru, the fifth placed South American team from the Conmebol qualifiers.

Australia finished group qualifying losing 1-0 to group winners and already qualified Saudi Arabia.

Australian coach Graham Arnold praised the Saudis who have qualified for their sixth World Cup and lost just once in qualifying. He also issued a warning to his players if they want to be in Qatar in November.

“The boys need to get back to their clubs and work hard,” said Arnold.

“We have got more depth now and that’s what we have been building. It is disappointing we didn’t qualify directly, but you look at this type of football culture here in Saudi Arabia, I think a lot of Australians don’t respect them as a football nation, but they have got some really good players,” continued Arnold.

“Great atmosphere, full house and people everywhere proud of their nation. Saudi Arabia has really built a great football culture.”

Japan, also already qualified before the final round, were given a surprise at home by a fast emerging Vietnamese team keen to follow up on the successes of their women’s side who have qualified for the country’s first ever World Cup next year.

The Vietnamese took a surprise lead in the 19th minute and held on to it at half time. A second half onslaught by Japan saw them equalise but despite numerous chances and two disallowed goals, the Vietnamese held on for a historic draw against one of the AFC’s perenially strongest teams.

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