Saudis slump as Korea, Oman and Qatar go through

Saudis slump as Korea, Oman and Qatar go through

SINGAPORE - Frank Rijkaard was left facing the sack after Saudi Arabia’s World Cup hopes ended in a crazy four-minute spell in Australia on Wednesday, while South Korea advanced after a disjointed victory over Kuwait.

By (Reuters)

Published: Wed 29 Feb 2012, 11:48 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 2:16 AM

The Saudis, three times Asian champions, led 2-1 in Melbourne and were set to join their hosts in taking one of the 10 spots in the fourth round of qualifiers in the region.

However, goals by Harry Kewell, Alex Brosque and Brett Emerton in four minutes from the 73rd sealed a 4-2 victory for the already qualified home side and meant Oman squeezed through to the fourth round with a 2-0 win in Muscat over Thailand.

Oman leap-frogged the Saudis and finished second in the group on eight points, seven behind Australia but two ahead of Rijkaard’s team, despite scoring only three goals in their six matches.

“It’s a sad moment for Saudi football and if you want to come out of a sad moment, you have to work very hard, so if I continue working there I will work really hard,” former Barcelona and Netherlands coach Rijkaard told reporters.

His chances of staying with the gulf side are slim though with the Saudi Football Association having a history of showing little leniency to coaches. Last year they sacked Portuguese Jose Peseiro after they lost their opening match of the Asian Cup.

South Korea breathed a sigh of relief after they advanced to the fourth round with a scrappy 2-0 victory over Kuwait in Seoul which meant they topped Group B.

It was a first competitive match for new coach Choi Kang-hee who replaced Cho Kwang-rae following the shock 2-1 defeat by Lebanon in November which left Korea in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1982.

The Koreans only needed to draw at home to Kuwait but a sloppy opening half gave the visitors hope they could claim a surprise win that would have sent them through.

Yousef Al Sulaiman hit the post for the visitors early in the second half before Korean striker Lee Dong-guk and Lee Keun-ho scored for the home side. The win also helped lowly Lebanon, who lost 4-2 away to United Arab Emirates, advance to the fourth round.

Lebanon started the third round as the worst-ranked of the 20 Asian teams and overcame a 6-0 thrashing in the opening fixture against the Koreans to complete an unlikely passage to the last 10.

“Looking at our opponents in the group nobody believed we would be in a position to step through to the next round,” Lebanon coach Theo Bucker told reporters.

Qatar completed the lineup for the fourth round after they drew 2-2 away to Group E winners Iran to advance at the expense of Bahrain, who produced a startling 10-0 thrashing of Indonesia.

Qatar were trailing 2-1 late in the game before Kasola Mohammed scored a late equaliser to grab the point the 2022 World Cup hosts needed to advance.

Brazilian Paulo Autuori was in the dugout for Qatar, the third coach the tiny gulf emirate have used in this campaign as they bid to qualify for their first finals.

Uzbekistan won Group C after they scored a surprise 1-0 away win over Asian champions Japan in a fixture between two sides who had already booked a fourth round place.

Iraq, Asian champions in 2007, topped Group A after they thrashed bottom-placed Singapore 7-1 in their final pool match and Jordan lost 3-1 to already eliminated China.

The 10 fourth round teams will be drawn into two groups of five on March 9 with the top two from each reaching the finals in Brazil in 2014 and the two third place sides facing off in a playoff.

The winner of the third place playoff will face a South American country in another two-legged tie with the winner earning a place in Brazil.

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