Japan becomes the first country to qualify for 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Keisuke Honda's 91st-minute penalty secures a 1-1 draw with Australia
Japan will now head to Brazil for the forthcoming Confederations Cup
Sven-Goran Eriksson appointed head coach of Chinese club Guangzhou R & F
An injury-time penalty from Keisuke Honda fired Japan into the 2014 FIFA World Cup, making the Samurai Blue the first country to qualify for next year’s tournament in Brazil.
With Japan needing to avoid defeat in order to clinch one of the 32 places with a game to spare, playmaker Honda converted a late spot-kick to level the score at 1-1 after Australia had taken a surprise lead through Tommy Oar’s speculative cross with eight minutes remaining.
Tuesday’s point means Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan are seven points clear at the top of Asian qualifying’s Group B and assured of a place in a fifth consecutive World Cup.
The top two teams from each of Asia’s five-country groups advance, with both third-placed teams entering a playoff.
The winner of that two-legged tie plays the fifth-placed team from the South American section to decide who goes to the tournament. Brazil, as host nation, has does not need to qualify.
Oman also enjoyed a fruitful Tuesday as they leaped from second bottom in Group B to second top after beating Iraq 1-0 in Muscat thanks to Ismail Al Ajmi’s goal in first half stoppage time.
The Omanis’ nine points are now two better than both Australia and Jordan, but the latter pair have a match in hand.
This will be played when the Socceroos, who have qualified for the last two World Cups, host Jordan in Melbourne next Tuesday.
The result of that match will determine what each team needs to do in their final qualifier on June 18, when Group B concludes with Australia at home again, against Iraq, while Oman travel to Jordan.
Japan’s next commitment is the forthcoming Confederations Cup in Brazil, a warmup event for 2014’s four-yearly showpiece.
Zaccheroni’s Asian champions play hosts Brazil in the competition’s opening game on June 15.
Elsewhere in Asia, former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has been named head coach of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R & F.
The Swede, who has also coached Manchester City, Lazio, Roma and Ivory Coast during a 36-year managerial career, has left his post as technical director of United Arab Emirates club Al Nasr.
“The club’s board of directors has today officially hired Sven-Goran Eriksson as Guangzhou football coach until December 2014,” read a statement from the club, which is 13th in the 16-team CSL.
“Coach Li Bing will from today no longer serve as the acting head coach.”