Kennedy propels Australia into WC

Kennedy propels Australia into WC

Substitute Josh Kennedy’s goal seven minutes from time sent Australia into the World Cup finals for the fourth time on Tuesday, ending a nervous night for 80,523 rain-soaked fans packed into Sydney's Olympic Stadium.

Six minutes after coming on as a substitute for Tim Cahill, Kennedy rose alone in the centre of the penalty box to head Mark Bresciano’s cross past the despairing dive of Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri and into the net. The stadium erupted and Kennedy was mobbed by his team-mates as they celebrated the goal that looked like it would secure the win they needed to seal second place in Asian qualifying Group B and the ticket to Brazil that went with it.

The Australians, frustrated for much of the evening by their own lack of penetration as much as the Iraqis, will now make their third successive trip to soccer's showpiece tournament and a fourth in total after 1974, 2006 and 2010.

Iran shine

Iran produced a resolute defensive display to snatch a 1-0 away win over South Korea on Tuesday and qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Despite the defeat, the Koreans also qualified for the finals after they edged Uzbekistan -- 5-1 winners over Qatar on Tuesday -- for the runners-up spot on goal difference.

Uzbekistan were pushed into third place in Asian qualifying Group A, behind Iran and South Korea, and will have to rely on the playoff route to make it to Brazil.
The third-place finishers in both Asian qualifying groups will meet in a two-leg playoff, with the winners taking on a South American side in another two-leg playoff for the right to play in Brazil next year.

Ethopia in trouble

Ethiopia soccer officials have admitted fielding an ineligible player in a qualifier and are resigned to being stripped of three points, potentially handing South Africa and Botswana a 2014 lifeline. “We have evaluated the situation and we came across the issue that we made a mistake,” Ethiopian Football Federation president Sahilu Gebremariam said.

Soccer's world governing body FIFA announced on Sunday it was investigating allegations that Ethiopia had fielded an ineligible player in a qualifier against Botswana on June 8. The announcement came hours after a 2-1 win over South Africa in Addis Ababa secured them top place in Group A and a place in the final phase of the African qualifiers.

That win also appeared to have ended the hopes of 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa and Botswana reaching next year's finals as Ethiopia had opened up what was an unassailable five-point lead in the group. However, a place in the final round of qualifying will once again be up for grabs from Group A if, as expected, Ethiopia are docked three points for including a suspended player in their line-up on June 8.