Japan first to qualify for World Cup
By Football News
Japan became the first country to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 1-1 draw against Australia in Saitama on Tuesday.
Keisuke Honda’s stoppage-time penalty equalised Tommy Oar’s 82nd-minute opener to give the home side the point they needed to seal their place in Brazil next year.
Australia’s Matt McKay handled a Honda cross in the area in injury time and the CSKA Moscow midfielder made no mistake from the spot to deny Australia the win.
Holger Osieck sprung few surprises with his Australia starting line-up, which was attacking and included Mark Milligan, Mark Bresciano, Oar and Robbie Kruse.
Honda started for the hosts despite being doubtful due to injury, but it was one of his midfield partners who had the first sight on goal in the sixth minute.
Veteran Yasuhito Endo curled a 30-yard free-kick just wide, but Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer appeared to have the effort covered.
Maya Yoshida then missed a glorious chance as he failed to get enough on a free header from a Honda corner before Endo blazed over from range on 16 minutes.
The chances continued to come and Australia's first opportunity fell to Brett Holman, who hit an effort wide after being set up by Tim Cahill.
However, Australia were living dangerously and had Schwarzer to thank for staying on level terms after 19 minutes.
Brilliant interplay just outside the area led to a chance for Shinji Kagawa, but the Manchester United playmaker scuffed his shot and Schwarzer produced a superb one-handed save.
The visitors became more composed, and they dictated the tempo - keeping possession for longer periods in the middle part of the half.
And chances on goal duly followed, with Kruse denied by a stunning stop from Eiji Kawashima in the 34th minute after he latched onto a wonderfully-weighted throughball from Holman before Cahill put the rebound well over.
Osieck's men looked to slow down the contest heading into half-time and Japan were mostly unthreatening.
The home side controlled possession after the interval, with Honda and Kagawa looking dangerous.
Kagawa was unlucky not to break the deadlock just before the hour mark when his chip from the side of the area clipped the crossbar with Schwarzer beaten.
Honda had two free-kicks from similar spots just outside the area, but one went over and the other straight at Australia’s goalkeeper.
Japan dominated the half but Australia created a glorious chance with a quarter of an hour to play when Bresciano released Luke Wilkshire down the right. His cross found Cahill, whose shot was blocked by Yoshida.
Schwarzer then denied Yuto Nagatomo before Australia scored against the run of play after 82 minutes.
Oar claimed his first international goal when his cross-cum-shot floated in at the back post as Kawashima flapped.
That looked to be enough before McKay’s handball and Honda stepped up to drill the penalty straight down the middle past the previously-unbeatable Schwarzer.
The result saw Japan repeat their feat of qualifying first for the FIFA World Cup - which they also achieved in 2006 and 2010 - while a point also means Australia are well placed to join them Brazil.