And then there were 8: South Korea, Saudi Arabia qualify for World Cup

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
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Saudi Arabia and South Korea have joined Iran and Japan in the Asian Football Confederation’s delegation to Russia, leaving Syria and Australia to duel for the intercontinental playoff spot and six other nations on the outside of football’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: New Zealand advances to playoff ]

Lowly Thailand finished with two points but ultimately stands as Australia’s automatic qualifying spoiler, while UAE, Qatar, China, and Iraq were eliminated before the start of play. Uzbekistan also misses out after failing to pass Syria or South Korea.

Uzbekistan 0-0 South Korea

Neither side won over the course of their final three qualifiers, costing the hosts a place in Russia. South Korea was able to advance with the point, and the Taegeuk Warriors will play in their ninth-straight World Cup.

Saudi Arabia 1-0 Japan

Fahad Al-Muwallad’s 63rd minute goal helped the Green Falcons to their first World Cup since 2006.

Australia 2-1 Thailand

The Socceroos could not make up two goals of difference on Saudi Arabia, and will face Syria for the chance to play CONCACAF’s fourth-place team in the interconfederation playoff. Thailand’s goal differential of minus-18 have Australia hope, even on the road, but tournament leading scorer Tomi Juric and Hertha Berlin’s Mathew Leckie were the only goal scorers for the Socceroos.

Iran 2-2 Syria

A win against already-qualified Iran would’ve put Syria into the World Cup ahead of South Korea, and the visitors had a 1-0 lead early only to need a stoppage time goal from Al Ahli striker Omar Al Somah to move ahead of Uzbekistan for third place in Group B.