Australia hold off Japan to stay on course for finals

Australia took a major step towards qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals by securing a scoreless draw away at Japan yesterday in a key Asian qualifier. The result maintained unbeaten Australia's two-point lead atop Group One halfway through the last full round of qualifying. The Socceroos, with 10 points, have three of their last four matches at home.

The top two teams in the group qualify automatically for the finals in South Africa next summer. Japan have eight points and are still in prime position to qualify from the five-team group, with a four-point cushion to third-placed Qatar.

Japan had their best scoring chances in the second half at Nissan Stadium and controlled much of the possession, but were often stifled by Australia's packed defence and midfield. "It was a home game that we should have won," said Japan defender Yuji Nakazawa. "We created a lot of chances and didn't get the result we wanted but have to stay positive for the next game."

"It's a great result," Australia and Everton midfielder Tim Cahill said. "They've had five weeks preparing, we've had two days." Australia, who maintained their record of not conceding a goal in their four group games, fielded a largely defensive line-up and managed to keep Japan at arm's length in a sluggish first half. Japan manager Takeshi Okada brought on Wolfsburg striker Yoshito Okubo early in the second half in an attempt to create more scoring chances and the move paid off.

Yasuhito Endo came close in the 69th minute with a shot that Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer deflected over the bar. Keiji Tamada had a free header from a Yuta Nagatomo cross 10 minutes later but his attempt rose inches over the bar.

The hosts came closest in the 86th minute when Makoto Hasebe's goal-bound close-range shot deflected off Okubo and wide of the post.

Australia, still without veteran stars Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka as they make their way back from injury, wore black armbands during the match and both teams observed a minute's silence before kick-off in memory of those killed in the fires in Australia.

Japan had also been held to a draw in their previous home game against Uzbekistan but have won both their away games. Next up for them are Bahrain on 28 March, when Australia are not in action. Yesterday's game was the latest installment in a growing rivalry between the two nations. Australia beat Japan 3-1 in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, while Japan knocked Australia out of the 2007 Asian Cup with a penalty shoot-out win in the quarter-finals.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching