Cup dreams over for Saudi, China
HONG KONG - Agence France-Presse
Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Australia means the team will miss its second consecutive world cup after participating four World Cups in a row between 1996 and 2006. REUTERS photoFrank Rijkaard’s Saudi Arabia side crashed out of 2014 World Cup qualification yesterday, going down to a late burst of goals in Australia as Oman leapfrogged the team with a home win against Thailand.
The Saudis led Australia at half-time, but the Socceroos hit back with three strikes in five minutes to run out 4-2 winners, while Oman beat Thailand 2-0 to claim the second Group D Asian qualifying spot.
Saudi Arabia qualified for four consecutive World Cups from 1994 to 2006 but it is the team’s lesser-known neighbors who will join Australia in the final Asian group qualification stage for the tournament in Brazil.
China salvaged a measure of pride from their failed qualification campaign with a 3-1 home win over Jordan, who had already made it through to the next round.
Three defeats and two wins had left China with no chance of making it to Brazil 2014, but a brace from midfielder Hao Junmin and a late strike from substitute Yu Dabao gave the fans in Guangzhou something to cheer about.
Defeat for Jordan opens the door for Iraq to sneak ahead of them at the top of Group A, if they avoid defeat against Singapore in Doha.
In Melbourne, the Saudis rocked their hosts in the first half, scoring twice and dominating possession to lead 2-1 at the interval, but Australia emerged stronger after the break.
Australia skipper Lucas Neill had a headed equaliser -- which would have been his first international goal -- flagged offside just after the hour, although replays suggest he was in line with the last defender.
But the home side finally levelled with around twenty minutes remaining when the impressive Alex Brosque laid on a ball for former Liverpool star Harry Kewell to sidefoot home.
The hosts then netted twice in quick succession to steal a 4-2 lead, with Brosque glancing home a Brett Emerton cross for his second and Emerton scoring to leave Rijkaard shaking his head in disbelief.
South Korea through
Meanwhile, 2002 World Cup semifinalist South Korea saw off Kuwait with two second-half goals yesterday to book its place in the final group round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Koreans went into the match needing at least a draw to be sure of progressing and strikes from Lee Dong-Gook and Lee Keun-Ho saw them through as Group B winners.
Lebanon joins South Korea in the draw for the next round, to be made in Kuala Lumpur on March 9, after finishing second in the group despite suffering a surprise 4-2 defeat away to the United Arab Emirates.