Japan squeezes past Saudi Arabia in World Cup qualifying

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BANGKOK (AP) Marcello Lippi's first game as China coach ended in a 0-0 draw with Qatar in the third round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday.

The draw in Kunming leaves China with just two points after five games, making it almost certain that it will not qualify for the finals in Russia.

Lippi, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, was appointed in October following the resignation of Gao Hongbo.

China, looking to return to the World Cup for the first time since 2002, was close to scoring on a number of occasions but just could not find a way through.

The top two teams in the two groups will qualify automatically for the World Cup, with the two third-placed teams playing to decide which one advances to the intercontinental playoffs.



A first-half penalty from Hiroshi Kiyotake helped Japan to a much-needed 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in Saitama, Japan.

A handball in the area gave Kiyotake his opportunity in the 45th minute, and Genki Haraguchi added a second for Japan with 10 minutes remaining.

Omar Othman scored for Saudi Arabia with a minute left.

The victory moves Japan level with Saudi Arabia with 10 points after five Group B games and marks the first loss for Saudi Arabia, which still holds the top spot on goal difference.



Mile Jedinak and Teerasil Dangda both scored a goal in each half as Thailand and Australia played out a 2-2 draw in Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium.

Australia is third in Group B with nine points, one behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, and is the first time that Thailand has avoided defeat.

Jedinak put the Socceroos ahead with an early penalty, only for Teerasil to fire home from close range before halftime. The Thai striker scored early in the second half, also from the penalty spot, to put Thailand in sight of a famous victory.

Another spot-kick ensured that the spoils were shared as Jedinak kept his cool for the second time.



United Arab Emirates moved level on points with Australia in Group B after a comfortable win over Iraq in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed Khalil opened the scoring after 26 minutes with veteran Ismaeil Matar sealing the win with a minute remaining.

UAE now has nine points, staying in fourth, below Australia on goal difference.



A late goal from Koo Ja-cheol gave South Korea a crucial come-from-behind win over Uzbekistan in Seoul.

The Bundesliga midfielder scored with five minutes remaining to put South Korea, aiming for a ninth consecutive World Cup appearance, ahead of Uzbekistan and into second place in Group A behind Iran.

Uzbekistan's Mirat Bikmaev scored from outside the area in the 25th, with Nam Tae-hee making it 1-1 midway through the second half.



Iran stayed top of Group A despite being held to a goalless draw by Syria. Played at a neutral venue in Malaysia, torrential rain delayed the start by 45 minutes and made conditions difficult for both teams.

Iran moves onto 11 points, one above South Korea. Syria stays fourth with five points, one above Qatar and three more than last-placed China.