Australia and Japan share points to open door for UAE to move top of World Cup qualifying group
The UAE will have the chance to move top of Group B after Australia and Japan drew their 2018 World Cup qualifying match in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Genki Haraguchi scored an early goal for the visitors only for the midfielder to concede a second half penalty, which was converted by Australia captain Mile Jedinak.
The 1-1 draw ensured Japan protected their seven year unbeaten record against Australia but they have not won against the Australians in five consecutive World Cup qualifiers.
“We got caught with a sucker punch trying to force things and they sat back very deep and sweated on that pass in the middle,” Jedinak said.
“We regrouped at halftime and we were told to have a reaction. There looked like only one team winning the game, it was unfortunate we didn’t get that second goal.”
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The result keeps Australia top of the group with eight points after four games. Japan currently occupy second on seven points, although Saudi Arabia have the same points, with the UAE one point further back.
Therefore the winner of Tuesday night’s encounter between the Gulf nations at King Abdullah Sports City will move top of the group.
Despite the enormity of the encounter, UAE manager Mahdi Ali has played down its significance.
“It’s a very important match for both teams,” Mahdi Ali said. “However, this group will not be decided by this game, because the qualification will not be confirmed until the final moments. There is no difference between the four teams at the top: the gap between them is only one point, which is nothing at all. Nothing will be decided in the first round of fixtures at least.
“Only by the last game will it be confirmed who goes to the World Cup and who is eliminated because the teams are very strong. Our group is stronger than the other group and that puts us under pressure, because the teams are very close to each other. That is a disadvantage, but we still have a chance.”
The top two teams automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with third place entering a two-legged playoff against third in Group B. The winner will then take on the Concacaf playoff winner for a place at the World Cup.
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Published: October 11, 2016 04:00 AM