Japanese footballers dominated their chances of qualifying directly for the World Cup in Qatar later this year. The team won 2-0 in Saitama against the leaders of the Saudi group.
Liverpool striker Takumi Minamino gave Japan the lead midway through the first half, after which Junya Ito took care of the final score shortly after the second half in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
Three countries in this group are vying for a direct place in the World Cup. In addition to Japan and Saudi Arabia, Australia will play Oman later Tuesday. If they win, the Australian team will be two points behind Saudi Arabia and one point behind Japan, with two matches remaining.
In the penultimate qualifier, Japan will play an away game against Australia on March 24, and the Saudis will play an away game against China, which has already been eliminated. In the final round on March 29, Australia will have to visit Saudi Arabia and Japan will receive Vietnam.
In Group A, South Korea, in addition to already seeded Iran, can qualify for the World Cup if they draw at least on Tuesday in the first leg against Syria. The United Arab Emirates has the best chance of getting the third place in this group.
Numbers 1 and 2 of the Asian groups qualify for the World Cup. The No. Three plays a playoff at home and away from the third-placed in Group A. The winner of that two-legged match then plays the No. 5 from South America for a World Cup ticket.
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