Australia, Iran and South Korea won spots at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on a dramatic final day of Asian qualifying Tuesday.
Australia beat Iraq 1-0 in Sydney before a crowd of 80,532, with Josh Kennedy scoring on a header in the 83rd minute. The Aussies began the game knowing a win over Iraq would put them through to a third straight World Cup appearance.
“Sorry, it wasn’t pretty,” Australia captain Lucas Neill said. “But we’ve beaten what was in front of us and pushed ourselves on to a very exciting tournament.”
Iran won 1-0 on a goal by Reza Ghoochannejad in the 60th minute at Ulsan, South Korea. Iran finished first in its group and reached the World Cup for the fourth time.
South Korea secured second place on goal difference after finishing even on points with Uzbekistan, which won 5-1 at home against Qatar. South Korea is going to its eighth straight World Cup.
“When Korea created opportunities, our players fought for our lives,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said.
The win set off wild celebrations across Iran, where the government had given rare approval for fans to spill into the streets. In separate messages, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and President-elect Hasan Rowhani congratulated the team.
Uzbekistan scored all five goals in the second half in a surging finish that threatened to knock South Korea out of second place. But the Uzbeks ran out of time and finished third. They now enter a playoff against Jordan or Oman.
“We will continue to battle in the next round, although we need a little time to recover,” Uzbekistan coach Mirdjalal Kasimov said.