Tuesday, 5 September 2017

South Korea qualifies for World Cup as Syria earn draw to playoff

South Korea booked their place at a ninth straight World Cup finals on Tuesday evening as a 0-0 draw with Uzbekistan was enough for Shin Tae-yong and his team to book their ticket for Russia. But after the final whistle, there was heartbreak for the Uzbeks as a late goal from Omar Al Soma in Tehran saw Syria move into third place in the group as Aymen Hakeem's side sealed a 2-2 draw with already-qualified Iran on a dramatic final night of Asia's qualifying campaign. South Korea ensured they would finish in second place in Group A behind the Iranians and two points clear of Syria as the nation continued their remarkable run of consecutive appearances at the World Cup

Lee Keun-ho, Son Heung-min and Lee Dong-gook all hit the woodwork for the Koreans at Pakhtakor Stadium, with the home side not doing enough to keep their hopes of a first-ever World Cup appearance alive. Those dreams were dashed in Tehran when Al Soma struck deep into injury time to slot the ball between the legs of Alireza Beiranvand and give the Syrians a point that took them into third place on goal difference. The teams in third place in each group will face off against one another before entering into an intercontinental playoff against CONCACAF, though the Syrians must wait a few hours to see who they will play. Syria booked their place in the elimination phase after an impressive fight back late in the game. Tamer Haj Mohamed scored for the Syrians -- the first goal Iran have conceded in more than 12 qualifying matches -- from close range after 13 minutes before a double from Sardar Azmoun looked set to give the Iranians all three points. But Al Soma, who only returned to the team last month after a lengthy self-imposed exile, slipped the ball home to send the Syrians into raptures. Syria will find out who they face following Japan's meeting with Saudi Arabia, with the Saudis needing to win to book an automatic place in Russia. Victory would take Bert van Marwijk's team into the finals and leave Australia to face the Syrians despite Ange Postecoglou's side notching up a 2-1 win over Thailand in Melbourne. Tomi Juric gave the Australians the lead in the 69th minute only for Pokklaw Anan to level with eight minutes go. But Mathew Leckie claimed the goal four minutes from time that kept Australia's hopes of an automatic berth alive. The United Arab Emirates' slim hopes were extinguished when Iraq's Aymen Hussein scored the only goal of their meeting in Amman in Jordan while China finished with a flourish as Marcello Lippi's side defeated Qatar 2-1. Xiao and Wu Lei scored after Akram Afiff had given the 2022 World Cup hosts the lead, as the Chinese narrowly missed out on keeping their chances of a second World Cup appearance alive.

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