Japan closes in on qualifying group leaders in Asia

Japan closed in on both Saudi Arabia and Australia in Asian World Cup qualifying by beating Vietnam 1-0 while the two leading teams in Group B played out a 0-0 draw

The Saudis lead the group with 13 points, followed by Australia with 10 and Japan with nine.

Only the top two finishers in each of the two six-team groups will automatically qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar.


Junya Ito scored an early goal from close range for Japan, a team that has appeared at every World Cup since 1998 but is in real danger of missing out this time.

Australia, which was playing at home for the first time in more than two years, had won 11 straight qualifying matches but now has only one point from its last two matches.

“Overall we played well, we created chances but they didn’t go in,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said. “Then a little bit of frustration set in with the time wasting and tactics from the Saudis. We have to learn to be better with that because that’s when they came up with their chances.”

The result was better for Saudi Arabia, which earned its first point on Australian soil.

The Saudis will travel to play Vietnam on Tuesday, while Australia will face China in the United Arab Emirates and Japan visits Oman.