Japan’s prospects of qualifying for the World Cup for the eighth time in a row are in jeopardy after a 1-0 loss to Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Japan has already lost two of its first three games in Group B, putting them six points behind Saudi Arabia and Australia, both of which have nine points. The top two teams from each of the two six-team groups will automatically qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar.
In front of 45,000 supporters at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, substitute Firas Al-Buraikan scored the goal in the 71st minute after he raced onto a botched backpass from Gaku Shibasaki and sent a low shot past Shuichi Gonda.
Australia overcame Oman 3-1 in Doha to stay atop the group on goal difference and win their 11th consecutive qualifying match, a FIFA record for a single qualifying series, according to Football Australia.
According to Football Australia, the victory put Australia above of Germany, Spain, and Mexico, who each won ten straight games on their way to qualifying for Russia 2018, South Africa 2010, and Germany 2006, respectively.
Australia’s winning streak began in September 2019 at Kuwait City, when the Socceroos began their quest to qualify for Qatar 2022. The Socceroos have maintained eight clean sheets on their way to the world record, outscoring their opponents 35 goals to three.
Due to scheduling conflicts and the worldwide effect of the COVID-19 epidemic, all but one of Australia’s matches were played on foreign land during this time period.
The Socceroos’ first encounter in Australia during their qualifying for Qatar 2022 was a 5-0 triumph against Nepal in Canberra in October 2019.
“It’s something we’ll probably dwell on in the future and what a wonderful accomplishment it was, especially playing 10 out of 11 away from home,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said. “But to me, it’s all about going to Japan and getting ready for Japan in Japan and making it 12 (wins).”
On Tuesday, Australia will face Japan in Saitama, near Tokyo.
Mandhar Al-Alawi cancelled Awer Mabil’s ninth-minute opening shortly before the half-hour mark. Early in the second half, Martin Boyle restored Australia’s advantage, and Mitchell Duke scored a late third goal to put the Socceroos on track for a fifth consecutive World Cup.
With a 3-2 victory over Vietnam, China kept its slim hopes alive. Both sides had lost their first two games, but Wu Lei scored his second late in injury time to tie the game after Vietnam had rallied from a two-goal deficit.
Son Heung-late min’s goal handed South Korea a 2-1 victory over Syria, keeping their undefeated record intact. With one minute remaining, Son scored a close-range goal to put South Korea on top of Group A after three games.
The Koreans, who had dominated, appeared to be having a difficult evening.
They ultimately seized the lead soon after the interval, after a wasteful first half in which striker Hwang Hee-chan squandered three decent chances.
Hwang In-beom twisted and spun outside the area before unleashing a ferocious strike into the Syria goal’s bottom corner.
South Korea’s attempts to end the game were unsuccessful, as Omar Khribin leveled the game with a volley with six minutes remaining. Syria has earned one point from three games in its quest for a maiden World Cup berth.