UAE, Japan Battle To Draw
TOKYO (AP) _ The United Arab Emirates retained a shaky second place in Asian Group B after battling third-place Japan to a 1-1 draw Sunday in a qualifying match for next summer’s World Cup soccer finals in France.
The draw assured first-place South Korea of its fourth straight _ and fifth overall _ appearance in the World Cup finals regardless of the result of two remaining games, one each against Japan and the Emirates.
The Emirates eleven has now accumulated eight points and is a distant second behind South Korea, which has earned 16 points. Japan is in third with seven points, followed by Kazakstan with six and Uzbekistan with two points.
A win is worth three points and a draw one point.
Only the two Asian group winners automatically qualify for the finals in France. The runners-up play off against each other for a third spot with the loser facing Oceania winner Australia for a fourth spot.
``It was an emotional game for everyone,″ Emirates manager Lori Sandri said of the match with 42 direct and indirect penalty kicks. ``We did very well in defense and Japan’s formation was the same as we expected.″
In the match before a near-capacity crowd of 56,000 at Tokyo’s National Stadium, Japan forward Wagnar Lopes took advantage of shoddy defense at the the start to score first.
Brazilian-born Lopes, who joined the national team last month after obtaining Japanese citizenship, raced down the right side, dribbled past two defenders and slammed the ball into the net past goalie Muhsin Musabeh in the fourth minute.
The Emirates team tightened its defense and evened the score in the 37th minute when Ismail Rashed headed home a free-kick lob from Munther Ali.
``We still have two games left,`` said Japanese manager Takeshi Okada. ``We’ll just do our best.″
Okada became the team’s skipper on Oct. 11 after his predecessor Shu Kamo was sacked following a record of one win, two draws and a loss in the qualifying round.
Japan, aiming for its first-ever berth in the World Cup finals, meets South Korea in Seoul on Nov. 1 and Kazakstan in Tokyo a week later.
The Emirates team plays against Uzbekistan in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 2 and South Korea again in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 9.