SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Iran became the first team from Asia to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar with a 1-0 win over Iraq in Tehran on Thursday.
Medhi Taremi’s goal early in the second half at the Azadi Stadium secured a third straight World Cup appearance for Iran with three Group A games still remaining.
Iran has 19 points from seven games, two ahead of South Korea, which is within touching distance of a 10th successive World Cup appearance after a 1-0 win over Lebanon.
With Tottenham forward Son Heung-min out injured, replacement forward Cho Gue-song scored from close range in Sidon just before halftime. South Korea can secure qualification with a win against Syria on Tuesday.
United Arab Emirates stayed eight points behind in third with a 2-0 win over bottom team Syria thanks to goals in each half from Caio Canedo and Yahya Al-Ghassani.
The top two teams from each group will automatically qualify. The third-place teams will advance to a playoff.
In Group B, Australia and Japan both won to put pressure on leader Saudi Arabia.
Australia beat Vietnam 4-0 in Melbourne and Japan defeated China 2-0 in Saitama.
Australia is in third place in Group B, one point behind Japan. Saudi Arabia plays Oman later Thursday.
China is nine points behind Australia with three matches remaining.
The Aussies, who have appeared at every World Cup since 2006, played without coach Graham Arnold, who is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.
Jamie Maclaren, Tom Rogic, Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree all scored for Australia.
Yuya Osako converted from the penalty spot and Junya Ito added the other for Japan.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports