TOKYO: Japan have become the latest team to secure their place at the World Cup in Russia next year after beating Australia 2-0 in Saitama to ensure their sixth consecutive appearance at the finals.
The Japanese thus joined Iran who earlier grabbed Asia’s first spot in Russia 2018 with two matches to spare. Brazil are also certain of being present.
Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate Japan. I must also applaud the Japan Football Association for demonstrating immense dedication and determination to stand proud among the world’s best teams in Russia next year.
“The AFC has clear and bold ambitions to ensure the success of Asia’s teams and players on the world’s biggest stages and I am confident that Japan, along with Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to do our continent proud in Russia.”
The AFC needs its teams to put up a solid showing in Russia ahead of Asia’s own controversial World Cup hosting in Qatar in 2022.
The Asian road to Russia 2018 continues on Tuesday with Australia and Saudi Arabia hosting to Thailand and Japan respectively as they bid to secure the final automatic spot in Group B.
In Group A, South Korea must win in Uzbekistan to ensure their own safe passage into the finals.
The Uzbeks need a victory of their own to keep their hopes alive with Syria, who will face Iran in Tehran.