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Qatar out, Saudis stay in hunt

QATAR was eliminated from 2010 World Cup contention while the hopes of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remained in the balance after the penultimate day of Asian qualifiers yesterday.

Qatar needed to win its final game to stay alive, but could only draw 1-1 away to already-qualified Japan.

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia also fell short of vital wins against already-qualified teams. Bahrain lost 0-2 away to Australia while the Saudis managed a 0-0 draw away at South Korea.

Japan, which booked a World Cup spot at the weekend with a win in Uzbekistan, took an early lead in the first half in Yokohama on an own-goal by Qatar defender Ahmed Ali Albinali.

Qatar equalized with a 53rd-minute penalty after Japan defender Yuji Nakazawa took Majid Hassan down in the box and Ali Yahya blasted the spot kick past 'keeper Seigo Narazaki.

Qatar came close to going ahead several times in the second half but couldn't find a way to beat Narazaki.

Yahya went close with a rising shot in the 73rd that sailed just wide of the top corner.

Japan was playing without midfielder Makoto Hasebe who was given a two-match ban by FIFA after being sent off against Uzbekistan.

South Korea and Australia have also qualified with one automatic spot remaining for Asian sides.

The 0-0 result in Seoul moved the Saudis level with North Korea for second place in Group B. Saudi Arabia hosts North Korea next Wednesday, with automatic World Cup qualification on offer for the winner.

A draw will be enough for North Korea to go through.

The third-place team in the group will go into a playoff with the third-place team in Group A for the right to play Oceania champion New Zealand for a place at South Africa 2010.

The Saudi Green Falcons started well in Seoul but were unable to maintain their early control and in a quiet first half, both teams had one decent chance each.

Nassir al-Sharma spun on the penalty spot to drive a shot that was well-saved by Lee Woon-jae after 13 minutes.

Just before the break, Lee Keun-ho's close range shot was stopped by Waleed Ali.

In Sydney, midfielder Mile Sterjovski broke the deadlock when he scored in the 55th and leftback David Carney sealed the Group A win for Australia with a goal in the 88th.

Australia plays Japan in Melbourne next week.

Bahrain is still in the hunt to finish third in the group and advance to the playoffs but needs to win its last match against Uzbekistan to be absolutely sure of progressing.


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