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Japan secure World Cup 2014 spot

ESPN staff
June 4, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Keisuke Honda got Japan's equaliser from the penalty spot © AP
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Japan became the first nation to book their place at next year's World Cup finals on Tuesday thanks to Keisuke Honda's injury-time penalty.

Alberto Zaccheroni's Japan have dominated the group and their berth in Brazil has been a formality for some time, but they knew at least a point in the home game against Australia in Saitama would confirm their presence.

Both teams wasted opportunities in an open encounter which sprang to life in the 81st minute when Australia took the lead. Tommy Oar's cross from the left took a slight deflection off a defender but that was enough to see the ball loop over goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and into the back of the net.

Japan pushed forward looking for the leveller and the visitors buckled right as the clock struck 90 minutes, with Matt McKay adjudged to have handled in the area. Honda calmly fired the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle of the goal and past the diving Mark Schwarzer to earn a 1-1 draw and a ticket to Brazil.

While Japan can start planning for next summer, Australia have serious work to do to qualify. Only the top two in the group qualify automatically, with the Socceroos second on goal difference ahead of Jordan. But just two points separate these two nations plus Oman and Iraq who face each other later on Tuesday. If there is a winner in that match they will climb above Australia.

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