- Three teams vie for remaining spot behind Iran in Group A
- The race in Group B remains well poised, with two games left
- Syria and United Arab Emirates claim a point after stoppage-time drama
Iran booked their qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with a 2-0 home victory against Uzbekistan, joining Brazil and hosts Russia at the global extravaganza. With Team Melli living up to expectations, however, Korea Republic and Japan failed to edge closer to qualification by dropping points, while both Syria and United Arab Emirates saw their blushes saved with stoppage-time equalisers.
Group A: *Qatar 3-2 Korea Republic, Iran 2-0 Uzbekistan, Syria 2-2 China PR
*Group B: Australia 3-2 Saudi Arabia, Iraq 1-1 Japan, Thailand 1-1 United Arab Emirates
Match of the day
Iran - Uzbekistan
Considering its significance as a decider of Asia's first qualified team, this match attracted the lion's share of attention from across the continent and beyond. Aware that a victory was all that they needed to seal their second successive World Cup qualification, coach Carlos Queiroz had urged Iran not to let the precious opportunity slip away. Obviously, the hosts proved in no shortage of motivation, dominating the proceedings throughout en route to triumph and progression.
Sardar Azmoun broke the deadlock midway through the first half, latching on to Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s through ball to send the home supporters at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium into delight. Captain Masoud Shojaei missed the chance to double the lead by pulling his second-half penalty effort wide, but Mehdi Taremi eased the hosts' worries when he sealed the all-important three points two minutes from time.
With Iran through, Group A became a three-way battle for the remaining automatic qualifying spot. Second-placed Korea Republic, however, failed to extend their cushion on contenders Uzbekistan and Syria, losing 3-2 in Qatar. Hassan Al Haydos scored twice and set up another, as the Middle Eastern nation grabbed just their second victory in the group, a result which kept their hopes of a play-off place still alive.
China PR, meanwhile, missed a glorious chance to clinch their second victory under coach Marcello Lippi, conceding a stoppage-time goal in a 2-2 draw with Syria. The result maintains Syria’s contention for a qualifying spot, but condemned China PR to the bottom of the group and with their hopes further dented.
The competition in Group B remains well poised, with Japan leading both Australia and Saudi Arabia by just a point. The Socceroos came out on top against Saudi Arabia in a five-goal thriller at home in a match played five days earlier, a result which moved them level with the Saudis on points. Knowing that a victory against Iraq could establish a three-point cushion at the summit, Japan strove and took the lead through Yuya Osako. With only pride to play for, the Iraqis fought back and equalised through Mahdi Kamil for a point.
Elsewhere, Ali Mabkhout equalised with a stoppage-time effort, as United Arab Emirates shared the spoils with hosts Thailand following a 1-1 draw. Mongkol Tossakrai put the hosts ahead shortly after an hour, but with the Thais beginning to hope for their first victory, Mabkhout struck home to keep the visitors' qualifying hopes alive.
Player of the day
Mehdi Taremi (IRN)
If the 2015 AFC Asian Cup saw the emergence of Iran striker Sardar Azmoun, then World Cup qualifying has provided the setting for another striking prodigy to thrive and shine. 24-year-old Mehdi Taremi, who made his international debut in a friendly two years ago, became the biggest revelation with Team Melli by scoring five times during the last qualifying stage. He would go on to add another three important goals in the third round, including the one against Uzbekistan, which sealed their progression.
Did you know?
Iran have so far impressed with their solid defence, having kept clean sheets in all of their eight outings in the third round of qualifying.
What they said
"I am sad about the result, but we should have won considering our displays. We put in some great performances in the second half, fighting back and taking the lead. Now, we face very difficult scenarios, but we will try. Whatever the result, we are going in the right direction." China PR coach Marcello Lippi following his side’s 2-2 draw with Syria on Tuesday.
Up Next (Round Three, Matchday 9)
Group A - *31 August