Football: Tehran beckons for Socceroos

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Australia's footballers face a "logistical nightmare" in their struggle for the remaining place in the World Cup finals. A golden goal for Japan in Sunday's Asian zone play-off has left Terry Venables' team facing a demanding two-leg play-off against Iran.

Australian players, who are scattered around the globe, face a difficult journey to reach the Middle East in time for Saturday's first leg in Tehran. The second leg will be played in Melbourne a week later, with the winner to claim the last available place for the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

David Hill, the Soccer Australia chairman, said. "I couldn't think of a worse place in the world to get to at short notice. It's a logistical nightmare."

Had the team faced Japan, all the players could have taken a direct flight to Tokyo. Iran, however, has few direct flights from anywhere.

In Japan, the celebrations were long and earnest after their team reached the World Cup finals for the first time. Japan qualified for France '98 when they beat Iran 3-2 with a goal in sudden-death extra time by Masayuki Okano to win the Asian zone play-off in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

The game attracted the second-highest Japanese audience for a football match broadcast, with viewing figures of 47.9 percent. That record stands at the 48.1 per cent who watched when Japan lost to Iraq and missed out on USA '94.

Chile overcame the nine men of Bolivia 3-0 to qualify for their first World Cup for 15 years, edging out Peru as they claimed South America's last place for France '98. Peru, whose last appearance in the finals was also in 1982, finished level on points after beating Paraguay 1-0 in Lima, but with a goal difference of minus one compared with Chile's plus 14.

France '98: World Cup qualifiers


Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia.


Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea.


Jamaica, Mexico, United States.


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, England, France (hosts), Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Scotland, Spain, Yugoslavia.


Argentina, Brazil (defending champions), Colombia, Paraguay, Chile,

Final place to be decided by two-leg play-off between Iran and Australia 22 (Tehran) and 29 November

World Cup finals draw: 4 December