Syria to face Australia for World Cup berth as Saudis qualify by beating Japan 1-0

Syria to face Australia for World Cup berth as Saudis qualify by beating Japan 1-0

Syria to face Australia for World Cup berth as Saudis qualify by beating Japan 1-0

South Korea and Saudi Arabia qualified for next year’s World Cup on Tuesday, while war-torn Syria kept alive its dream of playing on soccer’s biggest stage for the first time.

Australia, the reigning Asian champion, will face Syria in a playoff to stay in contention for a World Cup place after both teams missed the chance to seal automatic qualification, as the group stages of Asian qualifying drew to a close.

In Group B, Australia beat Thailand 2-1 in a nervous performance. Needing to boost their goal difference to hold off Saudi Arabia in the standings, the Australians instead missed chance after chance against a much weaker opponent.

That left Saudi Arabia needing to win by just one goal against Japan. Fahad Al Muwallad obliged with a fierce strike into the top-right corner in the 63rd minute to hand the Saudis a 1-0 win and their first World Cup appearance since 2006.

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