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Football: Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman book places at Asian Cup

Iran defender Amir Hossein Sadeghi (#5) celebrates scoring in the 4-1 win over Lebanon in Beirut that secured the 2014 World Cup qualifiers a place at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Photo: AFP.

Iran defender Amir Hossein Sadeghi (#5) celebrates scoring in the 4-1 win over Lebanon in Beirut that secured the 2014 World Cup qualifiers a place at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Photo: AFP.

November 20, 2013: Three-time champions Iran, former winners Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Uzbekistan secured their places at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia on Tuesday, with only one round of qualifiers remaining, in March 2014.


Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain progressed last week from the 20-team qualifying competition, while holders Japan, hosts Australia, 2011 bronze medallists Korea Republic and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners DPR Korea were already assured of places in the finals, which will be held from January 9-31, 2015.


Iran crushed Lebanon 4-1 in Beirut to top Group B, while Kuwait confirmed second place in the group by beating Thailand 3-1 at home. Oman progressed as Group A winners after a last-gasp 1-0 win over Syria in a neutral venue in Iran.


Qatar won 1-0 in Malaysia and 2011 semi-finalists Uzbekistan triumphed 2-0 in Hong Kong to become the second teams to qualify from Group D and Group E respectively.


China were unable to confirm their place in Australia after being held to a scoreless home draw with Group C winners Saudi Arabia, and will have to wait until the last round of qualifying matches on March 5 to confirm their fate. The second-placed teams in Groups A and C, the best third-place finisher, as well as the winners of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup will complete the 16-team line-up in Australia.


Iran, who won the title in 1968, 1972 and 1976, confirmed their place with goals from defender Amir Hossein Sadeghi, Fulham’s Askhan Dejagah, AFC Player of the Year nominee Javad Nekounam and Standard Liege striker Reza Ghoochannejhad at Sports City Stadium in Beirut.


Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who also guided his side to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, said: “Lebanon played well and they deserved a better result as they were fighting throughout the match. However, we were the better side and we knew how to score goals in order to secure the three points.”


Kuwait, the 1980 champions, completed the qualification picture in Group B with a 3-1 home win over Thailand, with Yousef Nasser scoring twice.


Kuwait coach Jorvan Vieira said: “Despite the good victory and securing our place in the Asian Cup, we still have a lot of things to achieve as qualification is only the start of a good campaign. We now have time to prepare to be one of the top teams in the finals.”


Oman sealed a return to the Asian Cup for the first time since 2007 as Eid Al Farsi scored a minute into injury time to secure a 1-0 win over Syria in Group A.


Oman coach Paul Le Guen said: “I’m very happy with my team’s qualification to finals of the Asian Cup. I confess today we didn’t play very well, but on the other hand, Syria were very highly motivated and playing against them was not easy.”


Qatar booked their place at a fifth consecutive AFC Asian Cup after a 65th-minute strike from substitute Abdulkareem Al Ali secured a 1-0 win over Malaysia at Shah Alam Stadium and kept Fahad Thani’s side within a point of Group D leaders Bahrain, who beat Yemen 2-0 at home.


“The result was as expected,” Thani said. “We came here with the intent to win and we’re happy we achieved that goal.”


Mirdjalal Kasimov’s Uzbekistan needed late goals from Vokhid Shodiev and Odil Ahmedov to beat 10-man Hong Kong 2-0 to advance from Group E and secure a sixth successive Asian Cup appearance.


“Every win helps us to be stronger and, of course, we are happy to have qualified for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup,” Kasimov said. “We will do our best in Australia and try and do better than we did in Qatar. We always aim big and we always try to achieve our goals.”


The UAE maintained their 100 per cent record in Group E with a 5-0 win over 10-man Vietnam.


Iraq, the 2007 champions, drew within two points of China in Group C by beating Indonesia 2-0 in Jakarta. Iraq face China in Dubai on March 5 to determine the group’s second qualifier.


Group A is more complicated. Jordan are second with five points from only three matches, after missing the last two rounds of qualifiers due to their World Cup playoff against Uruguay. Syria have four points from five games, while Singapore have three from four.


Jordan are away to Oman on January 31 and Singapore on February 4, before Oman host Singapore and Jordan welcome Syria on March 5.

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