Japan has become the first side (after the hosts) to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after they managed to salvage a 1-1 draw against Australia at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday night.
Both goals came inside the final ten minutes in what was a tight match with Japan only needing a draw to seal qualification while Australia were in desperate need of a win to get back on track.
Holger Osieck decided to go for a result in Japan and with that in mind included Mark Bresciano, Tommy Oar and Robbie Kruse in his starting XI.
There was also a surprise in the Japan line up with Keisuke Honda shaking off an injury to earn a spot in the starting XI.
Japan had a solid opportunity in the sixth minute as Yasuhito Endo’s free-kick went just wide of the goal in a sign of things to come.
Another set-piece provided a big opportunity shortly after as Honda found an open Maya Yoshida but couldn’t get enough power on the header allowing Mark Schwarzer to save.
Tim Cahill was the provider for Australia’s first chance as he put Brett Holman in space but Holman could only send his effort wide.
Japan could well have hit the lead in the 19th minute as their passing movement left the Socceroos stunned but Shinji Kagawa’s shot was poor and allowed Schwarzer to recover and save.
That seemed to wake up Australia who looked to take control of the match and were denied by a top drawer save from Eiji Kawashima in the 34th minute that kept Robbie Kruse out, keeping the sides level at the break.
Japan learned their lessons at half-time and came up much more determined, having the bulk of possession but struggling to make an impact against some solid Australian defense.
With 30 minutes left to play Japan could well have hit the lead as Kawagawa let fly a chip that beat Schwarzer but could only clip the crossbar as it went out of play.
In the 75th minute Yoshida denied Australia as Luke Wilkshire’s run down the right ended to a cross to Cahill who saw his shot blocked by the Japanese defender.
Just as it looked like the Socceroos were out of the contest Australia took the lead with just eight minutes to play.
Oar made a run at the defenders and looked to cross in to the box, it looked easy for Kawashima to gather but he flapped at it allowing Australia to take a 1-0 lead.
That should have been enough but disaster struck in stoppage time as Matt McKay blocked a shot with his arm handing Japan an opportunity to salvage a point which they took with Honda shooting right down the middle to seal qualification.
Australia will need to win both remaining matches or get a win and a draw, as long as Oman lose to Jordan, to seal qualification, a loss in their next match against Jordan could eliminate Australia.
For all the latest Australian Football news please subscribe and follow the writer on twitter.