Japan stumbles in bid to qualify for World Cup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Japan and South Korea dropped points in 2018 World Cup qualification on Tuesday, in games that both teams were expected to win.

In Group B, Japan was held to a 1-1 draw by Iraq, while South Korea lost 3-2 away to Qatar in Group A.

Yuya Osaka scored a header early for Japan in the match in Tehran, where Iraq plays its home games for security reasons. But Mahdi Kamel equalized in the second half for Iraq, which has already been eliminated from qualifying.

Japan leads the group by one point ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia with two games remaining.

Japan will host Australia in August and then play in Saudi Arabia in September.

Only the top two from the two six-team groups automatically qualify for the World Cup in Russia. The third-place finishers advance to the playoffs.

Also, Ali Mabkhout scored an injury-time goal to give the United Arab Emirates a 1-1 draw at Thailand.

Thailand, which is in last place in Group B, got its goal from Mongkol Kraisorn.

In Group A, South Korea has work to do to reach a ninth successive World Cup after losing in Doha.

Two goals from Hassan Al Haydos proved decisive for Qatar. He opened the scoring with a free-kick after 25 minutes and Akram Afif added a second six minutes after the restart.

Goals from Ki Sung-yeung and Hwang Hee-chan brought South Korea level with 20 minutes remaining, but Al Haydos scored Qatar's winner in the 75th.

South Korea stays second in the group but is just a point above third-place Uzbekistan and travels to Tashkent for the final game in September.

Ahmad Al Saleh scored an injury-time equalizer from a free kick to give Syria a 2-2 draw with China.

The match was played in the neutral Malaysian city of Melaka.

Syria took the lead in the 12th minute when Mahmoud Al Mawas scored from the penalty spot. But China, led by 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi, scored its own penalty in the 68th when Gao Lin converted.

Xiao Zhi then put China temporarily ahead in the 75th.

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