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AFC World Cup qualifying round-up: Iraq's hopes over

Iraq's World Cup hopes were snuffed out by Japan in Group B of AFC World Cup qualifying, while South Korea clinched a vital win in Group B

Japan have ensured Australia can finish no lower than third in Group B of AFC World Cup qualifying after the Samurai Blue claimed a 1-0 victory over Iraq in Doha on Tuesday.

The win means Japan finish as winners of the group with 17 points, while defeat officially ends Iraq's hopes of reaching Brazil 2014.

It means they have nothing to play for when they face Australia - having smashed Jordan 4-0 before Iraq faced Japan - in the final qualifier next Tuesday.

The Socceroos are in second with 10 points, ahead of Oman [nine] and Jordan [seven], with the final-round clash between those two nations potentially a battle for third if Australia beat Iraq.

A draw in that game combined with an Australian loss will also not be enough to see the Socceroos displaced from second.

Iraq, though, bravely almost produced a draw with Japan.

After a scoreless first half, Ala'a Abdul Zahra was sent off for Iraq in the 80th minute, before Shinji Ozazaki grabbed the only goal of the game in the last minute of normal time.

Japan came closest to opening the scoring in the 26th minute after a neat exchange between Hiroshi Kiyotake and Shinji Kagawa led to the former forcing the goalkeeper into a scrambled save.

Kiyotake was instrumental again just five minutes later when his delivery from the left-hand side was met by the head of Mike Havenaar.

The forward did well to beat his marker to the ball but it sailed narrowly wide of the target.

With Iraq struggling to have a meaningful attempt on goal, Japan tried to find the breakthrough before half-time.

Havenaar perhaps should have given the visitors the lead in the 42nd minute, but failed to connect with Hajime Hosogai's cross at the back post.

In the 53rd minute, full-back Ali Adnan had an effort from the left-hand side that surprised Eiji Kawashima in the Japan goal, but the goalkeeper was able to deal with the danger.

Manchester United midfielder Kagawa came close on the hour mark, when he took on Yuto Nagatomo's cross but sent his shot over the bar.

Both teams continued to look for the opener and exchanged chances, before Iraq's hopes were dealt a huge blow when Zahra was sent off for a second bookable offence.

And their misery was compounded in the 89th minute when Japan finally broke the deadlock.

Ozazaki fed Endo, who carried his run on to the edge of the left-hand side of the area before slotting a pass to back to the forward, whose effort was placed in the bottom-right corner.

In Group A, South Korea picked up a vital win over Uzbekistan to go a point clear on top of the table.

The duo had been split only by goal difference prior to kick-off, but Akmal Shorakhmedov's 42nd-minute goal was enough to hand South Korea the three points in Seoul.

Uzbekistan's night was compounded when Iran thumped Lebanon 4-0, moving the winners to second in the group.

South Korea need just a draw in their final game, against Iraq next Tuesday, to seal top spot and a place in Brazil.

Uzbekistan need to win at home against Qatar and hope Iraq fall if they are to take the second automatic qualification spot from the group.

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