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27 Mar 2015
Japan and Oman secure World Cup berths
Two of the tightest matches of the week left Lebanon and Iran on the outside looking in but with one last shot qualify on the final day in Doha
Japan gets to 7th AFC final, heading to WC
The 5-4 victory for Japan over Iran was spectacular from start to finish. You could not blink or get your breath back after such high quality play and a fierce rivalry dominated the course of the match. Iran started quicker, scoring twice to put the Japanese in a big hole, but the Nippon had answers, four straight of them in fact, but the lead was still questioned late in the game, with the Japanese just hanging on. Japan makes it to the final once again, they have done so in every AFC Qualifier, 7 to be exact, and they will face an Oman squad who qualified earlier for their 2nd ever World Cup appearance. The Iranians are not done and will play on Saturday in the 3rd place match against Lebanon, to see who is the final entry from Asia for the World Cup.
The familiar sides did not need time to feel each other out and understand the tactics, because they have seen so much of each in the recent years. Nerves were not an issue but the Nippon and the Princes of Persia were solid on defense in the early going, not wanting to give the other side any momentum. Slides and tackles abounded but they did not directly lead to any offensive chances until Iran paced a long-range shot through the Japanese keeper and took the late 1-0 lead. A last minute penalty in the opening frame gave the Iranians a 2-0 advantage going into the first break. The Blue Samurais completely turned things around early in the second period and swung the game to their advantage, going up 4-2. Iran would not quit though and on the restart after the 4th Japanese goal, A. Naderi connected to bring the score to 4-3 for Japan.
If you though emotions could not get any higher, you would have been sorely mistaken as Japan and Iran battled and fought through each other in the search for more goals. Japan hit the nail on the head first, on a wonderful long range direct kick that would have most likely gotten through a brick wall. The lead was not safe at 5-3, however, and Iran rebounded with a beautiful shot from M. Kiani to pull to within one goal at 5-4. With the automatic World Cup berth on the line, Japan used sound strategy and defense and close out the match and hang on for the 5-4 win.
Goals: 1-0: P. H. Abdollahi, min. 4 (1); 2-0: Ahmadzadeh, min. 0 (1); 2-1: Oda, min. 9 (2); 2-2: Yamauchi, min. 8 (2); 2-3: Goto, min. 7 (2); 2-4: Goto, min. 4, (2); 3-4: A. Naderi, min. 4 (2); 3-5: Ozu, min. 4 (3); 4-5: M. Kiani, min. 1 (3).
Oman needs overtime to be 1st from Asia to qualify for World Cup
The 5-4 overtime win for Oman over Lebanon was just as dramatic as any game with a ticket to Portugal on the line. The Omani Selection jumped out first but on four separate occasions, Oman took the lead only to see Lebanon claw back each time. The third periods’ final minutes had some of the most exciting beach soccer around, with the momentum going one direction and then the other, before heading to overtime. The extra time goal from Oman left everyone breathless as he single handedly put his team into the Final on Saturday and consequently the World Cup. The loss was heartbreaking for Lebanon but they still have a chance to qualify for the World Cup, they just need to win on Saturday in the 3rd place match.
Customary smiles and handshakes took place just prior to the match, after the national anthems but the pleasantries stopped there with both sides knowing full well that if they won, they would be going to Portugal for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2015. Great saves were common place in the opening frame and neither side could find that elusive first goal and the match headed into the first break still tied at 0. The defenses continued to play at the highest possible level, and with a little help from the crossbar and goalposts, the score remained the same going into the middle of the second period. Oman was the first to strike, on a precise strike from Yahya, to give the Red Warriors a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute passed when H. Fattal knotted things at 1 for the Cedars of Lebanon. Emotion grew and grew and the Omani squad netted another to continue the back-and-forth action. The frenzied pace ended only because the middle period came to an end, with Oman still up 2-1.
Nothing was decided as the final 12 minutes began, both teams showed the kind of heart that will be on full display in Portugal in July for the World Cup. The Lebanese squad knew how much was at stake and despite playing from behind for most of the match, they kept their cool and confidence, but Oman was not letting up either. Lebanon came up huge again, tying the score at 2 with a flick header from a throw-in that sent the fans and crowd into a frenzy. The energy did not cool and neither did the terrific goals, with Oman jumping ahead again, with only a few minutes remaining they held all the cards in their hand. The advantage did not last long as Lebanon attacked again, using another header from A. Grada to level the score at 3 with just over two minutes left. Shamefully one team had to lose but neither was willing to concede as they both exchanged late goals, leaving the score at 4-4, which is how the match would head into overtime. In overtime there was very little between the teams, but Yahya of Oman scored his second of the match to send his team to the World Cup by a score of 5-4.
Goals: 0-1: P. Yahya, min. 8 (2); 1-1: H. Fattal, min. 7 (2); 1-2: K. Oraimi: min. 5 (2); 2-2: A Grada, min. 9 (3); 2-3: Mandhar, min. 4 (3); 3-3: A. Grada, min. 2 (3); 3-4: M. Merhi (o.g.), min. 1 (3); 4-4: M. Merhi, min. 2 (3); 4-5: Yahya, min. 0 (et).
UAE narrowly escapes with win
The 2-1 win for the UAE over Bahrain could not be decided until the final minutes, with both teams struggling to find any consistent offensive rhythm. The Falcons scored first to start things in the second period, but the Bahraini quickly responded, only to go scoreless until the final minutes, when veteran Ali Karim scored for the Emirati. The goal proved to be just enough for the win. The victory means the UAE will face China on Saturday in the match for 5th place. Bahrain will take on Uzbekistan on Saturday as well, though they will be playing the 7th place match, both with World Ranking implications.
Bahrain and the UAE had high hopes for this tournament and all things considered they both still had a chance to redeem themselves after their quarterfinal defeats on Thursday. The first period began fast-paced as both sides meant business but unlucky for them, the defenses showed the same energy and going into the final minutes, the first goal had not been scored. The period wound down with both sides holding a golden goose egg on the board and matters headed into the 2nd still tied at 0. The stalemate barely lasted into the middle frame with teams scoring successive goals, to open up the scoring but bring things level again as well, this time at 1. The commitment to defense picked up again and the score stayed at three going into the final minutes of the second period, and that is how the second twelve minutes would end, tied at 1.
The intensity only grew in the final frame when both sides missed golden opportunities to take the lead, again for the UAE or for the first time for Bahrain. No nonsense play continued, with very little stoppage and coast to coast action but going into the heart of the frame, neither side had found the back of the net, for what could be the deciding goal. The urgency grew and the Emirati and the Reds were nervously trying to get the next score, but the hurried pace had begun to take its toll, and the sides were lucky to not commit any untimely mistakes. Ali Karim, the talismanic goal scorer for the UAE gave his team the lead very late in the match and that goal proved to be enough to thrust his side to the 2-1 win.
Goals: 1-0: Hasan Ali, min. 8 (2); 1-1: Salman, min. 7 (2); 2-1: Ali Karim, min. 1 (3).
China rebounds to play for 5th place
The 4-3 win for China over Uzbekistan was a tit for tat affair with the two sides exchanging goals, leads, and defensive stands. Both teams were distraught having lost yesterday but they did not show it and had a spring in their step from start to finish. China got on the board first, but Uzbekistan stormed ahead, taking the biggest lead of the match at 3-1, but The Dragons stung the White Wolves three straight times, taking the 4-3 lead again in the final frame. The win means China will be final in the 5th/6th place match on Saturday, with hopes of improving their overall world ranking. Uzbekistan fought very bravely the entire week and will play in the 7th/8th place match on Saturday, which is no small feat considering the stiff competition in the AFC.
Two heartbreaking losses in the quarterfinals put these two teams together on day 5 in Doha, but playing for 5th place was more than enough motivation to get China and Uzbekistan to bring their best possible product to the field. Initially, Uzbekistan were on their heels, but as is the case in all great beach soccer matches, the attacks and defense leveled off and both teams were furiously looking for the first goal. The first period came to a thrilling end as a defensive turnover by Uzbekistan led to a Chinese direct kick from midfield, which Wan Ch slotted home with less than a minute remaining. The score held as the Dragons took a 1-0 lead into the first break. The floodgates opened and cracking goals were aplenty in the middle frame, with both sides striking the frame multiple times was all that kept the score lower than it was. Uzbekistan scored twice quickly to charge ahead 3-1, but the Chinese bounced back and leveled things at 3, which is how the match stood going into the final period.
With things deadlocked, the Chinese keeper decided to do his part on offense and blazed a shot the length of the pitch and put his team up again, for the first time since the opening frame, and took the 4-3 lead. Things got scrappy in the final minutes as both teams exerted pressure to get the deciding goal, whether it be the equalizer for the White Wolves or the fifth goal for the Chinese. With less than a minute remaining, neither side had found that goal and China held on for the wire-to-wire 4-3 victory.
Goals: 0-1: Wan Ch, min. 0 (1); 1-1: Sharipov, min. 8 (2); 2-1: Sharipov, min. 7 (2); 3-1: Kholmurodov, min. 6 (2); 3-2: Cai W M,min. 6 (2); 3-3: Hao M H, min. 2 (2); 3-4: Wen T Y, min. 8 (3).
FIFA BEACH SOCCER WORLD CUP 2015 – AFC QUALIFIER QATAR
16:15 – Uzbekistan 3-4 China (Play-off for 5th Place)
17:30 – UAE 2-1 Bahrain (Play-off for 5th Place)
18:45 – Lebanon 4-5 (aet) Oman (Semi-finals)
20:00 – Iran 4-5 Japan (Semi-finals)
15:00 – China vs. UAE (5th Place Match )
16:15 – Uzbekistan vs. Bahrain (7th Place Match)
17:30 – Lebanon vs. Iran (3rd Place Match)
18:45 – FC Barcelona vs. Qatar (Friendly)
20:00 - Oman vs. Japan (Final)