AustraliaA 2-0 win over Australia thanks to two last-minute goals, Japan dragged Saudi Arabia into the 2022 World Cup finals on the afternoon of 24 March.
Score: Mitoma 89, 90’+4
Had the ball and finished more, but Japan had to wait until the 89th minute to bring back the three points to officially qualify for the World Cup, through a goal from substitute Kaoru Mitoma. It was the same Brighton winger who scored to set the scoreline 2-0 for the visitors in the dying seconds of the game.
Teacher and student Hajime Moriyasu widened the gap with third-placed Australia to 6 points, when the qualifying round had only one game remaining. Japan’s victory also helped Saudi Arabia clinch the remaining spots in Group B, where the West Asian representatives are four points clear of Australia. Australia has already finished third in Group B, and will have to compete for a ticket with the third team in Group A, before meeting the fifth-placed team in South America.
This is the seventh time Japan has attended a World Cup final, and also the seventh time in a row they have done so. And Saudi Arabia for the sixth time is participating in the biggest football tournament on the planet.
Australia were unhappy with the loss, especially as they failed to score in the 24th minute. Defender Miki Yamane headed home from an Australian corner. But the referee did not concede the goal because he thought midfielder Gianni Stensness had fouled the Japan goalkeeper when he jumped for the ball.
It was a rare dangerous opportunity for the home team in this match, when Japan dominated the game. Australia only really came back to attack in the dying minutes, but they paid the price with two goals with 5 minutes remaining.
This was only Mitoma’s second game for Japan, but the 24-year-old midfielder scored twice. In the 89th minute, he crossed into the corner of the ball from Yamane’s cross. In the last minute of compensation, Mitoma came out alone from the left, turned into the penalty area then sank and stretched. Goalkeeper Matthew Ryan missed and let the ball roll back into the net. The Japanese substitutes all rushed onto the pitch to celebrate with Mitoma for the two goals.
The last game on March 29 meant nothing for Group B, when Japan hosted Vietnam, and Australia were guests on the Saudi Arabia pitch.