Football
Saudi Arabia beat Japan to snatch automatic World Cup spot from Socceroos
SOCCER

Saudi Arabia beat Japan to snatch automatic World Cup spot from Socceroos

The Soceroos will have to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup the hard way after Saudi Arabia sealed an automatic qualifying spot at the expense of Ange Postecoglou's men with a 1-0 victory over Japan on Wednesday morning (AEST).

The Soceroos will have to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup the hard way after Saudi Arabia sealed an automatic qualifying spot at the expense of Ange Postecoglou's men with a 1-0 victory over Japan on Wednesday morning (AEST).

MORE: Postecoglou lashes critics, storms out of press conferenceWATCH: Leckie winner saves Socceroos ... for now | Socceroos player ratings |

Substitute Fahad Al Muwallad's second-half strike was enough to seal the victory over the Group B winners, who had already secured their place at Russia 2018.

The result means Saudi Arabia join Japan in the group stage of next year's tournament on goal difference after finishing on equal points (19) with the Socceroos.


Australia, who earlier beat Thailand 2-1, now face a home-and-away AFC section play-off against Syria in October.

The winner of the play-off will then face another daunting home-and-away showdown against the fourth-placed team from CONCACAF in an intercontinental tie in November, with the victor qualifying for the World Cup.

USA, Honduras and Panama are all possible opponents should the Socceroos win the initial AFC section playoff against Syria.


The Saudis, backed by a vociferous crowd at King Fahd Stadium, had Japan on the back foot early on and came close to opening the scoring through a fierce Yahia Al Shehri drive.

They failed to create much in the way of meaningful chances in the first half despite their dominance of possession, though, and Abdullah Al-Mayouf had to be alert to parry a superbly controlled volley from Hotaru Yamaguchi five minutes before the interval.

Mansour Al-Harbi clipped the woodwork with a strike from a tight angle after a swift break down the left, but the frustrations of the home fans were beginning to build as Japan started to assume more control of the play.

Al Muwallad was introduced at half-time to a welcome reception as Saudi Arabia sought a greater attacking threat, and the forward's first contribution was to send in a teasing low cross that Yuto Nagatomo raced back to clear.

Hiroki Sakai saw an effort hooked off the line from a corner before Genki Haraguchi shot narrowly wide, but Al Muwallad missed the best chance of the first hour moments later, wrestling the ball away from Nagatomo only to be thwarted by Eiji Kawashima's foot when through one-on-one.


But Al Muwallad was not to be denied on 63 minutes, collecting Nawaf Al Abid's pass before blasting the ball beyond Kawashima and into the roof of the net from close range, sending the packed crowd into raptures and Saudi Arabia to Russia.

 

 

Share this article

Features

Latest stories

motorsport

WATCH: Hamilton profits from Vettel's first-lap crash to win in Singapore

golf

Leishman extends advantage at BMW Championship as Day lurks

Cormier torn over receiving UFC title after Jones tests positive

Rugby Championship

Australia v Argentina: Everything you need to know

golf

WATCH: Hole-in-one hero Day relaxed amid FedEx Cup charge

EPL

WATCH: Ryan beaten twice as Bournemouth pick up first win

golf

Leishman extends lead as Day stays close at BMW Championship

tennis

Stephens hungry for more after big-money US Open win

football

WATCH: Messi nets hat-trick in Barcelona's big win

EPL

WATCH: Mane's controversial red card leaves Klopp fuming

tennis

WATCH: Stephens thrashes Keys to claim incredible US Open win

football

Embarrassed Montpellier apologise for shocking shirt-printing error

MoreLess
Back to Top