(Reuters) – After a number of upsets, normal service resumed in Asian World Cup qualifying yesterday with Australia, South Korea and Iran securing key victories which left them on the verge of joining Japan in reaching Brazil.
The quartet were the top seeds when the draw for the fourth round of the Asian qualifiers was made last year in Malaysia but all have suffered shock losses along the way that had left their participation in another finals in doubt.
Japan became the first side to book a place last week with a point against a stubborn, defensively-minded Australia but the same Socceroos starting XI showed their attacking abilities in Melbourne yesterday to rout Jordan 4-0 and move into second in Group B.
Mark Bresciano gave the home side an early lead and, after a slight mid-game wobble, Australia added three more in the second period with the lively Robbie Kruse proving a thorn in the side of the West Asians, who had upset the opposition 2-1 earlier in the campaign.
Victory for Australia in their final match in Sydney next week against Iraq, whose campaign ended with a 1-0 loss at home to Japan yesterday, would guarantee a third consecutive finals appearance for the Socceroos.
“We had a good game today, we made a big step forward but we haven’t crossed the finish line,” Australia coach Holger Osieck told reporters.
“It’s a fact – and I made it perfectly clear in the dressing room to the players – that the preparation for next Tuesday has started already.”
Jordan’s hopes of claiming the second and final automatic qualifying berth all but ended in the defeat with their minus 10 goal difference making it almost impossible to overhaul Australia.
They host third-placed Oman, who are only a point behind the Socceroos, in their final match on Tuesday where victory can book a playoff berth with a side from Group A to decide which Asian side will face a South American team over two legs for another World Cup place.
Uzbekistan currently hold third place in Group A after they fell to a narrow 1-0 loss to South Korea in Seoul which allowed Iran to leapfrog them into second with a 4-0 thrashing of Lebanon.