Football: Iran beat Oman to join China, Syria, Australia in final phase of World Cup qualifying

Sports Tuesday 29/March/2016 22:31 PM
By: Times News Service
Football: Iran beat Oman to join China, Syria, Australia in final phase of World Cup qualifying

Muscat: Iran blanked Oman 2-0 in the final Group D game in Tehran on Tuesday to join China, Syria, Australia in the final phase of the 2018 World Cup qualifying.
According to the news posted on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) webstie, Iran advanced to the third round of qualifiers for the World Cup as Group D winners after Sardar Azmoun’s first-half double saw Team Melli defeat Oman 2-0 as the curtain came down on the Preliminary Round 2 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint-qualifiers.
Iran went into the first-versus-second meeting at the Azadi Stadium boasting a vasty superior goal difference over Oman and any remote hopes that the Gulf Sultanate had harboured of taking top spot in Group D all but ended by the 23rd minute after Azmoun had put the hosts 2-0 up.
The former Sepahan striker, who currently plays his club football in the Russian Premier League with Rostov, where he is on loan from Rubi Khazin, opened the scoring in the 16th minute with his sixth of the qualifiers before taking his individual tally to seven with Iran’s second seven minutes later.
Neither side could add to Azmoun’s brace in the remainder of the match as undefeated Iran finished top of Group D with 20 points, while Oman finished six points further back in second place.
Eight group winners will advance to the third round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, as well as straight to the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates, along with the four best runners-up.
The other four runners-up will progress to the third round of qualifying for the Asian Cup, along with all the third-placed teams and the four best fourth-placed teams.
The remaining sides, which will include Bangladesh, will have to negotiate past two rounds of playoffs for one of the final eight spots in the Asian Cup third qualifying round.
Meanwhile, according to agency reports, China helped by a slip-up from North Korea, scraped through to the final phase of qualifying in Asia after beating future hosts Qatar 2-0 in a nervy Group C showdown between the continent’s super rich.
While the Qataris could relax having already qualified for the 12-team third round as group winners, China needed to win in Xi’an and hope other results went their way in order to grab one of the four best runners-up spots across the eight groups.
Failure to advance would have been a backward step for a country that has flushed their domestic game with millions of dollars spent on foreign talent and youth academies following a football reform plan backed by President Xi Jinping.
Their blushes were spared, however, as Huang Bowen scored in the 58th minute and Wu Lei notched in the dying stages to grab the required win, which, coupled with Jordan’s 5-1 loss to Australia, North Korea’s surprise 3-2 defeat in the Philippines and Oman’s failure to win in Iran, sent them through.
Huang told Xinhua that head coach Gao Hongbo, who stepped in for the final two games after Alain Perrin’s sacking, deserved praise.
“He told us maybe 2018 was the last edition for the players of the age group from 1985 to 1989 and encouraged us not to give up even if there was only one percent of hope,” the Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder said.
Asian champions Australia were involved in the first do-or-die contest of the night in Group B but Tim Cahill scored twice in a comfortable win over Jordan to advance to the third round and also the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Japan also racked up the goals in a 5-0 home rout of Syria, who joined the Samurai Blue in advancing from Group E as one of the best runners-up despite the defeat.
“For Syria, this qualification is very great,” Syria coach Fajr Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.
Former Asian champions Iraq were another side to scrape through in second place after they edged Vietnam 1-0 in Tehran to join pool winners Thailand in escaping Group F.
Saudi Arabia drew 1-1 with United Arab Emirates having needed to avoid defeat to ensure they won Group A in a clash between two sides who were guaranteed to advance.
Uzbekistan advanced from Group H following a 1-0 win over Bahrain.
North Korea would have followed the Uzbeks out of the group and into the third round if they had held on to a 2-1 lead in Manila but the 2010 World Cup finalists crumbled spectacularly, conceding twice in the last six minutes to gift China passage.
China have only ever qualified for one World Cup in 2002 despite the game enjoying widespread popularity in the world’s most populous nation.
The 2002 campaign was also the last time they had reached the final stages of qualifying in Asia.