Japan, Iran win in World Cup qualifying
UNDATED (AP) -- Ryoichi Maeda and Shinji Okazaki scored second-half goals on Sunday as Japan started its final round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers with a 3-0 win over Oman.
Iran stunned Uzbekistan 1-0 with a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time. Qatar won at Lebanon 1-0. Jordan held Iraq to a 1-1 draw.
Maeda gave Japan a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute of the Group B match at Saitama when he took a pass from Shinji Kagawa, broke to his left and slid the ball under the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Okazaki put the result beyond doubt just three minutes later, gathering his own rebound and beating Al Habsi from close range.
The top two teams in both of the five-team qualifying groups will secure an automatic spot at Brazil. The third place teams advance to a playoff.
In Tashkent, Mohammad Reza Khalatbari scored in stoppage time to give Iran the win at Uzbekistan. Substitute Karim Ansarifard broke down the right wing before passing to Khalatbari, who found the net in the fourth minute of added time.
Iran was lucky to win the Group A match, given Uzbekistan had the better chances for most of the match and looked to have scored in the 74th minute.
Uzbekistan captain Odil Ahmedov knocked the ball into the net, but Iran defender Jalal Hosseini, who was inside the goal mouth, managed to clear it away. TV replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line, but the referees did not award a goal and play continued.
In the other Group B match, Iraq midfielder Nashat Akram opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a solo effort from outside the penalty area. Jordan striker Ahmad Hayel Ibrahim took advantage of some poor goalkeeping to level in the 43rd minute.
The result at Amman was a setback for Iraq, which is aiming to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With Brazilian Zico at the helm, Iraq had impressed recently with five wins despite being required to play two of its home matches on neutral turf.
At Beirut, Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Soria scored in the 63rd minute in the Group A match, taking advantage of a poor pass from Ramez Dayoub and then sidestepping keeper Ziad El-Samad for the easy tap in. Lebanon pressed for the equalizer to no avail.
Qatar, set to host the 2022 World Cup, has never played in a World Cup.
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