Saitama - Keisuke Honda fired Japan into the 2014 World Cup Tuesday with a
dramatic injury-time penalty which salvaged a 1-1 draw with Australia
and made them the first team to qualify alongside hosts Brazil.
Oar's fortuitous late strike had looked set to condemn the hosts to an
undeserved defeat. But after Matthew McKay handled in the box, Honda
drove his spot-kick straight down the middle to earn the necessary
The result left the Asian champions seven points clear and
uncatchable in Group B, putting them through to their fifth straight
World Cup. It is the first time they have sealed qualification on home
"I was nervous. I tried to hit the shot to the centre," said Honda.
"If it was saved, there was nothing I could do about it."
coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who joined Japan after the 2010 World Cup,
said his attractive Blue Samurai side would "surprise the world" at next
year's tournament in Brazil.
"I came to Japan to bring them to
the World Cup -- that was my bottom line," said the Italian. "I feel
relieved that I achieved it. We are going to improve further and
surprise the world."
Holger Osieck's Australia meanwhile will be
glad of the point away from home as they scrap with Jordan, Oman and
Iraq for the second automatic qualifying spot. The third-placed team
will go into a play-off.
Japan had the better of a highly
entertaining first half which saw chances fly thick and fast and heroic
saves at both ends of the pitch.
Yasuhito Endo's dipping free-kick
curled past the upright early on, and the Gamba Osaka midfielder then
fired over the bar after a slick move orchestrated by Honda and
Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa.
The same trio combined for
another neat exchange which drew a one-handed reaction stop from
Australia's Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to deny Kagawa from close
At the other end Brett Holman dragged a shot wide, New York
Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill volleyed over and Japan's Eiji Kawashima
had to come sharply off his line after Robbie Kruse was put through
Kagawa and Honda continued to torment the Socceroos
after the break and they nearly broke the deadlock on 55 minutes when
the Manchester United man's stabbed, defence-flummoxing cross was poked
wide by his bleach-blond team-mate.
Kagawa, operating on the left,
was denied by hard-working Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski and then
bounced a shot off the angle between the right post and the crossbar.
brought on defender Yuzo Kurihara as a stalemate beckoned. But shortly
afterwards, Oar silenced the massed Japanese fans when his cross from
the left spun over Kawashima and crept in on 82 minutes.
were staring at a cruel defeat but as the clock ticked to full time,
Honda's cross was parried by McKay's arm. The blond CSKA Moscow talisman
stepped up to ram the penalty past Schwarzer, who dived to his left.
think we performed better. We deserved a win. But as usual, something
unexpected happened. But my players had a strong feeling to fight back,"
Japan are now through to their fifth straight
World Cup since making their debut in 1998, and with a high-quality side
which will look to build on their run to the last 16 four years ago in
Australia have two games left to make sure of
reaching their third World Cup in a row. The Socceroos, now level on
points with second-placed Jordan, host the desert kingdom next week
followed by Iraq on June 18.