AFC World Cup qualifying

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Celtic’s Rogic lifts Australia in AFC World Cup qualifying

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Tomas Rogic has had a track record of scoring splendid goals for both club and country, and that continued on Thursday.

[ MORE: USMNT faces Trinidad & Tobago in must-win WCQ ]

The Celtic attacker blasted home a thunderous left-footed strike against Saudi Arabia after the hour mark to lift Australia to a 3-2 victory in AFC World Cup qualifying.

Tomi Juric’s first-half brace gave Australia a 2-1 lead on the stroke of halftime, but Mohammed Al Sahlawi managed to pull the match level in stoppage time.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper made a crucial blunder on a clearance during the first-half, which led to Juric’s first goal of the match for the Socceroos (see below).

The victory for Australia pulls the two nations level on points (16), but Saudi Arabia remains in second place in Group B based on superior goal differential.

With two matches remaining in the third round of AFC qualifying, Australia will be looking to move above Saudi Arabia in order to qualify directly for Russia 2018 and avoid a playoff.

Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Marcello Lippi earned his biggest victory since taking over as coach of China’s national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

Australia, Japan settle for draw in crucial World Cup qualifier

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Two giants of the Asian Football Confederation clashed on Tuesday as Australia and Japan drew 1-1 in a massive 2018 World Cup qualifier in Melbourne.

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Over 48,000 fans packed into the Etihad Stadium but the hosts struggled to break down a stubborn Japanese defense.

After just five minutes Genki Haraguchi gave Japan the lead following Keisuke Honda’s superb through ball but instead of pushing for a second, Japan sat back and invited pressure.

Eventually Japan succumbed to the heavy pressure as captain Mile Jedinak (now of Aston Villa, formerly of Crystal Palace) scored the Socceroos’ equalizer from the PK spot after Haraguchi fouled Tommy Juric in the box.

[ MORE: USMNT host New Zealand ]

A handful of Premier League players were involved as Southampton’s Maya Yoshida played the full 90 minutes at center back for Japan, while Bournemouth’s Brad Smith also went the distance for Australia. Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki was an unused sub and former Everton star Tim Cahill came off the bench with just over 20 minutes to go for Australia.

Following the draw both teams sit in a very comfortable position in Group B of AFC qualifying but after dropping points in Saudi Arabia earlier this week, Australia will now go to Iraq and Thailand with a bit more pressure.

Australia sits top of the six-team Group B with eight points from four games, while Japan sits in second with seven points from four matches. The top two teams from both Group A and Group B in AFC qualifying automatically qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The two teams who finish in third place in each group will then meet in a two-legged playoff for the right to face CONCACAF’s fourth-place team in a two-legged playoff. The winner of that match will then advance to the 2018 World Cup.

World Cup qualifying: Asian sides face separation day on Tuesday

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A quartet of miserable performing sides means very few Asian sides can feel even close to certain about their slots in Russia after Tuesday’s fourth match day.

Thailand, Iraq, and Qatar have failed to find a single point through three matches, while China is barely better thanks to a home draw with Iran.

We could see some separation from the pack at the top end and some lifelines at the bottom come Tuesday, however. No less than three matches pit teams with six or seven points.

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The day begins with the probable best of the bunch. Ageless Tim Cahill and Australia dropped their first points of qualifying in Thursday’s draw in Saudi Arabia, and now host Japan in Melbourne. The Samurai Blue has rebounded from an opening day upset at home to UAE, but those were expected wins against Thailand and Iraq. Australia is a different story.

No players have scored more in qualifying than UAE‘s Ahmed Khalil and Saudi Arabia‘s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, with 14 goals each. Both will aim to go atop Group B, hopeful of an Australia loss or tie.

Over in Group A, things are only a little less congested between the Top Four. World Cup veteran sides Iran and South Korea will tangle. The hosting Taegeuk Warriors have yet to lose in qualifying and the same can be said for Team Melli. Should be a fun one.

As for the lifelines, Iraq hosts Thailand and a loser would be a minimum of six points adrift of even a World Cup playoff spot. Qatar needs to hold serve against a Syria side which could sneak into the Group A discussion with a road win.

Tuesday matches
Australia vs. Japan — 5 a.m. ET
Iraq vs. Thailand — 8:30 a.m. ET
Uzbekistan vs. China — 9 a.m. ET
Iran vs. South Korea — 10:45 a.m. ET
Qatar vs. Syria — Noon ET
Saudi Arabia vs. UAE — 1:45 p.m. ET

Qatar sacks manager ahead of AFC World Cup qualifying

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With two World Cup qualifiers coming up next and no points to show thus far, Qatar has fired manager Jose Daniel Carreno.

[ MORE: Argentina apologizes for Bauza’s comments regarding Messi ]

The decision came down Friday as Qatar prepares to take on South Korea and Syria in preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Qataris have failed to take points out of their first two WCQ matches in 2016, falling on the road against Iran and 1-0 to Uzbekistan in Doha. Qatar currently sits last in Group A through two rounds in the third round of Asian qualifying.

Uruguayan Jorge Fossati, who currently manages Qatar Stars League side Al-Rayyan, is expected to take over Qatar’s managerial position, however, no official decision has been made yet.