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Hashemian double boosts Iran hopes

Hashemian celebrates one of the goals that gave Iran victory

TEHRAN, Iran -- German-based striker Vahid Hashemian struck twice as Iran beat Japan 2-1 to throw their Asian World Cup qualifying group wide open.

Iran and Bahrain top Group B with four points each from two games and an identical goal difference in the final round of 2006 qualifiers.

Japan have three points after last month's 2-1 victory over North Korea.

Bayern Munich's Hashemian pounced on sloppy Japan defending to fire Iran ahead after 25 minutes before a raucous crowd of 100,000 in Tehran.

Japan midfielder Takashi Fukunishi volleyed an equaliser against the run of play in the 66th minute after good work from substitute Atsushi Yanagisawa.

Hashemian rose to head Ali Karimi's cross past Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki in the 75th minute to secure a precious victory for Iran.

Bahrain won 2-1 in North Korea earlier on Friday to move on to four points. Iran were held to a goalless draw away to Bahrain in their opening match.

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