Australia shocked, Japan through and China's WCup dream over
Japan thumped Tajikistan 4-0 to advance into the final qualifying stage for the 2014 World Cup Friday but there will be no China after they lost to Iraq and Australia were shock losers to minnows Oman.
Uzbekistan join Japan in the next round after they squeezed past North Korea 1-0 at home, meaning the North are out, but their great rivals South Korea are all but there after a late double saw off a stubborn United Arab Emirates.
Japan, the reigning Asian Cup champions, started slowly at the Dushanbe Central Stadium in the Tajik capital, struggling to find their rhythm on a pitch which was almost bald.
And the Blue Samurai, who defeated Tajikistan 8-0 at home, survived a mighty scare when midfielder Dilshod Vasiev hit the post with a sizzling shot in the 31st minute.
But that sparked Japan to life and they opened the scoring in the 36th minute when Kengo Nakamura's shot was saved by goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev only for defender Yasuyuki Konno to pounce for his first international goal.
Japan made it 2-0 in the 61st minute when Shinji Kagawa sent a cross from the left edge of the area for Shinji Okazaki to head home from close range.
Second-half substitute Ryoichi Maeda added another in the 82nd minute after he received the ball on the edge of the area with four defenders in front of him, moved to the right and hit a fierce shot into the net.
Japan completed the victory in injury time with a fluid passing move finished off by Okazaki.
Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni said: "For us, the result is the most important. Our team scores goals by creating many chances, not by creating only a few chances.
"The Middle Eastern and Central Asian teams are physically strong. On top of that, the pitch condition was very bad today.
"Personally, I feel that it is very difficult to play an away game in Asia, but we are the only team to score 12 goals against Tajikistan."
Uzbekistan join Japan in the final round of qualifying thanks to a Timur Kapadze goal in the 49th minute at home to North Korea, who will now not make it to Brazil.
Also failing to make yet another World Cup are China, whose 1-0 defeat against Iraq means their chance has gone once more and is sure to lead to yet more disillusionment with the under-achieving national team back home.
Iraq left it late, prolific striker Younis Mahmoud snatching victory in Doha two minutes into injury time.
There was a major surprise in Muscat, where an 18th-minute strike from Amad Ali gave Oman a 1-0 win over Australia, who had gone into the Group D tie with a 100 percent record.
The Australians nevertheless still look sure to progress. Also nearly there are South Korea, who needed goals from Lee Keun-Ho in the 88th minute and Park Chu-Young deep into stoppage time to seal a 2-0 win over the UAE.
The Koreans can seal their spot in the final qualifying round with a draw against Lebanon in Beirut next week.
The winners and runners-up of the five groups will be drawn into two pools for the round-robin fourth stage, with the eventual top two in each section earning a ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The two third-placed teams will then face each other for the right to contest an intercontinental play-off.
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