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Korea draw hits Iran's chances


South Korea and Iran drew 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier yesterday, dashing the Middle Eastern team's hopes of an automatic place in next year's finals. South Korea had already qualified for South Africa.

Iran is level on points in Asian qualifying Group 2 with North Korea and Saudi Arabia, who were to meet late yesterday, and needs the Saudis to lose to secure a playoff place.

Several Iran players wore green armbands in what appeared to be a show of support for defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi while their fans unfurled banners at the stadium reading: "Free Iran."

Iran went ahead through an own goal in the 51st minute from South Korea's Kim Dong-jin, who was tightly marking Iran's Masoud Shojaei. Kim was hit by a cross and the ball slid past helpless goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae.

South Korea equalized through a masterful goal from Park Ji-sung. The Manchester United midfielder took a short pass from Lee Keun-ho, beat a defender and tucked a left-foot shot just under the bar in the 81st minute.

In Melbourne, Tim Cahill scored two second-half goals as Australia beat Japan 2-1 to finish the last round of Asian World Cup qualifying with an unbeaten record.

Both Japan and Australia had already booked their berths for 2010 South Africa ahead of the final qualifier and only top place in Group 1 was at stake.

Cahill performance

Australia ended qualifying atop the group with 20 points, five clear of second-place Japan, and conceded only one goal in eight matches.

Everton midfielder Cahill reproduced his performance from the 2006 World Cup group match against Japan in Germany, when he scored twice to guide Australia to a remarkable comeback win.

He did it again in front of an estimated 70,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Japan dominated much of a lackluster first half before unmarked Marcus Tulio Tanaka darted forward to head in a Kengo Nakamura corner in the 40th minute.

The Australians went on the attack early in the second half and were rewarded when Cahill equalized in the 59th after rising in the box to nod in a floated Vince Grella free-kick.

Cahill capped a man-of-the-match performance in the 77th when he eluded the Japan defense to gather a Nicky Carle corner and knock the ball past Japan 'keeper Seigo Narazaki.



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