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World Cup Qualifiers

WCQ: South Korea Return To FIFA World Cup, Australia To Playoffs

Australia
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Ange Postecoglou, coach of the Socceroos and his team react as they leave the field at full time after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Thailand at AAMI Park on September 5, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Another regular to the FIFA World Cup is Uli Stielike’s Taeguk Warriors of Korea Republic. They only drew scoreless with Uzbekistan at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent but nonetheless, South Korea made history as the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to make 10 FIFA World Cup Finals, part of a long streak of appearances dating back to 1986.

Iran won Group A of the Third Round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers with a record of 6-4-0 (22 points), while South Korea was a respectable second with a record of 4-3-3 (15 points). Entering the playoff will be Syria, who take the next step towards a historic FIFA World Cup Finals appearance with a record of 3-4-3 (13 points). Uzbekistan, China, and 2022 FIFA World Cup Host’s Qatar were eliminated.

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Syria’s opponent in the Fourth Round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers will be Ange Postcoglou’s Socceroos of Australia, who survived elimination with a scrappy 2-1 win over already-eliminated Thailand at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. Tomi Juric (69′) and Mathew Leckie (86′) scored for the Roos, while Pokklaw Anan delivered an 82nd-minute equalizer for the War Elephants that stood for all of four minutes late in the second half. At the Amman International Stadium, Ayman Hussein’s 29th-minute goal for already-ousted Iraq eliminated the United Arab Emirates from the World Cup.

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Meanwhile, at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, it took all of 63 minutes, but Fahad Al Muwallad is officially a national hero in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as his goal gave the Green Falcons a historic 1-0 shutout victory over already-qualified Japan, whose lackluster performance may have incited the already burning flames of animosity in the Socceroos camp. With the win, the Saudis join Iran, Japan, and the Korea Republic. It may be too early to tell, but the possibility of the embattled USA Men’s National Team having to face either Australia or Syria for a spot in the FIFA World Cup Finals is now a distinct if unwanted, possibility.

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