Japan became the first team to qualify for the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa when they beat Uzbekistan 1-0 in a Group One qualifier on Saturday.
Shinji Okazaki struck the only goal early in the game to
secure Japan's place at their fourth finals. They were also the
first team through to the 2006 tournament in Germany.
The win gave Japan 14 points from six matches and left
Uzbekistan fourth on four.
Japan will be joined by Australia if the Socceroos avoid
defeat by Qatar in Doha later on Saturday.
The Blue Samurai went ahead nine minutes into the match with
a fortuitous goal by Okazaki sparking wild celebrations among
the travelling support.
Okazaki picked up on Kengo Nakamura's penetrative through
ball and shot tamely at the keeper from close range. He somehow
headed the ball into the net as he fell clumsily to the floor.
Japan were typically dangerous from set pieces and had a
goal disallowed moments later when Yasuhito Endo's superb free
kick was saved by Ignatiy Nesterov and the follow up was
Uzbekistan, who are left to fight for third place and a
play-off berth, fought hard and Timur Kapadze almost scored on
half-time when he found himself in front of goal but allowed the
ball to be prodded just away as he lined up a shot.
The hosts piled on the pressure and almost grabbed a
Islom Tuhtahujaev struck a potent free kick which took a
deflection before it was spectacularly tipped on to the bar by
Asian player of the year Server Djeparov could have ruined
Japan's day when he struck a dangerous free kick that sailed
just wide of the upright.