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Japan, Iran score crucial wins
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 06 - 2012

Ryoichi Maeda and Shinji Okazaki scored second-half goals Sunday as Japan started the final stage of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup with a 3-0 win over Oman.
Iran stunned Uzbekistan 1-0 with a goal in the dying seconds of stoppage time, while Jordan held Iraq to a 1-1 draw in an Middle East clash. Qatar in the late match edged Lebanon 1-0.
Maeda gave Japan a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute of the Group B match when he received a pass from Shinji Kagawa, ran to his left and slid the ball under the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.
Okazaki put the result beyond doubt three minutes later, gathering his own rebound and beating Al-Habsi from close range. Keisuke Honda opened the scoring in the 12th minute, taking a superb cross from Yuto Nagatomo and beating Al-Habsi with a left-footed shot.
The top two teams in both of the five-team qualifying groups will secure an automatic spot at Brazil. The third-place teams advance to a playoff.
In Tashkent, Mohammad Reza Khalatbari scored in stoppage time to give Iran a 1-0 win at Uzbekistan. Substitute Karim Ansarifard broke down the right before passing to Khalatbari, who found the net in the fourth minute of added time.
Iran was lucky to win the Group A match, given Uzbekistan had the better chances for most of the match and looked to have scored in the 74th minute when the ball appeared to cross the line.
Uzbekistan captain Odil Ahmedov knocked the ball into the net, but Iran defender Jalal Hosseini, who was inside the goal mouth, managed to kick it away. TV replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line but none of the three referees awarded a goal and play continued.
In the other Group B match, Iraq midfielder Nashat Akram scored in the 14th minute of the Group B match with a solo effort from outside the box. Jordan striker Ahmad Hayel Ibrahim took advantage of some poor goalkeeping to level in the 43rd minute.
Jordan substitute Thaer Bawab missed an easy chance in front of the net in the 86th minute.
Turkey stuns Portugal
Turkey upset Portugal 3-1 in a friendly Saturday, a week before the Portuguese start their campaign at the European Football Championship against Germany.
Portugal is winless in its last three matches and for the second time in a week was jeered by its home fans. It previously conceded 0-0 draws in friendlies against Macedonia and Poland.
Despite dictating the run of play, Portugal lacked ideas in attack and too often was guilty of poor finishing, including Cristiano Ronaldo's 65th-minute penalty miss.
Umut Bulut tapped in from close range in the 35th and extended Turkey's lead in the 52nd after a defensive blunder by Miguel Veloso.
Five minutes later Nani's low drive from the right flank into the far corner pulled one back for Portugal, but Ricardo Costa's 88th-minute clearance hit Pepe and rebounded into the net. Bulut then extended Turkey's lead.

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