Japan and Iran seal World Cup finals places

JAPAN booked their place at a third consecutive World Cup finals as goals from Atsushi Yanagisawa and Masashi Oguro gave the Asian champions a 2-0 win over North Korea in Group B of Asia’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Bangkok.

The 2002 World Cup co-hosts became the first nation to book their place in Germany, with a guaranteed top-two finish in Group B.

Iran also booked a place at their third World Cup as Branko Ivankovic’s side defeated Bahrain 1-0 in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium yesterday.

It moved Iran into top spot, one point ahead of Japan.

The win was sweet revenge for the Iranians, who missed out on qualifying automatically for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan following a 3-1 loss to Bahrain in Asian qualifying four years ago.

That defeat allowed Saudi Arabia to progress, while the Iranians lost out in a play-off to the Republic of Ireland.

Next year’s finals will be Iran’s third after the Persians qualified for the tournament in Argentina in 1978 and in France 20 years later.

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