SINGAPORE (AFP) — Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday took the final two berths in the next phase of Asian qualifying for the World Cup 2010.
They join Australia, Bahrain, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Uzbekistan as the final 10 teams which will contest the last round of qualifying for football's showpiece tournament.
Playing in Dubai, Qatar notched up a vital 1-0 win away to Iraq, with Sayd Ali Bechir rising masterfully to meet a Hussein Yasser cross to score the game's only goal in the 77th minute.
The result left Qatar in second spot in Group 1, even on points with Australia but behind in goal difference, while Iraq are eliminated, along with China, with seven points from six matches.
"We were always confident about beating Iraq because we have had favourable results against them in the past," Qatar coach Jorge Fossati said.
"Many Iraqi players play in the Qatar League so we know their game very well."
The result came as a deep disappointment for Iraq, a football-mad country whose violence-scarred people look up to their football stars to bring them cheer.
"This is a very sad day for us," said Iraq coach Adnan Hamad. "We needed just a draw to qualify, but that header by Syed Bechir caught us napping."
In Group 5, the United Arab Emirates advanced to the next phase despite suffering a 3-1 defeat at home to Syria.
Jehad Alhoussain scored twice and Firas al-Khatib added a third for Syria, with Ismaeil Matar scoring UAE's only goal from the penalty spot.
That penalty would prove decisive, however, as the result left the two sides even on seven points, but the UAE with a superior goal difference (0, as opposed to Syria's -1) just enough to send them through.
Iran defeated Kuwait 2-0 to finish as winners of the group, Javad Nekounam scoring in the 17th minute and Gholamreza Rezaei adding another goal in second-half injury time.
Singapore scored twice in the space of a minute to send Lebanon home without having earned a point in Group 4.
Lebanese hopes rose when they took the lead through Amer Khan in the 70th minute, but that did not last long as Ramez Dayoub scored an own goal in the 75th minute and John Wilkinson scored the winner seconds later.
The other Group 4 match saw Saudi Arabia defeat Uzbekistan 4-0 thanks to goals from Abdoh Autef in the sixth minute, Malek al-Hawsawi in the 37th and 88th minutes, and Saad al-Harthi in the 56th minute.
It was the first loss in six group matches for Uzbekistan, who advance as group runners-up with the Saudis matching them on 15 points and having the edge in goal difference.
The two Koreas played out a tame 0-0 draw in Seoul having both already progressed from Group 2, which also saw Jordan defeat Turkmenistan 2-0 on a quick brace by Hasan Abdel Mahmoud.
In another match of no competitive significance, Japan have finished top of Group 2 after a 1-0 home win over Bahrain.
Atsuto Uchida scored the winner in the final minute of normal time. Both teams had already qualified for the next round of the Asian campaign, but the win put Japan on top of the standings.
In the group's other match, which featured two already-eliminated teams, Oman came back from an early deficit to defeat Thailand 2-1 in Muscat.
China had earlier ended their dismal 2010 World Cup campaign on a high with a well-deserved 1-0 win over an albeit under-strength Australia.
Defender Sun Xiang scored with a thunderbolt volley in the first half of a match in which Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek decided to test some of the younger players expected to play at the Beijing Olympics in August.
"It was for us a good experience but I cannot be happy about the result," Veerbank said.
"The players are still young and talented and have to improve. They will get a lot of experience in the Olympics and we will find out if they are good enough to be part of the next qualification phase."
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