World Cup Qualifiers R3
Marvel Stadium

Late drama in Saitama: Japan defeat Iraq

The Caltex Socceroos' opponents next Tuesday night in Melbourne have squeezed past Iraq in dramatic fashion in FIFA World Cup qualifying action overnight.

Substitute Hotaru Yamaguchi struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Japan snatched a 2-1 victory over the Iraqis. 
It looked as though Iraq, who had lost both of their previous Group B fixtures, would get off the mark when Saad Abdulameer headed home an equaliser on the hour mark in Saitama.

The visitors may have felt a point was just reward for their efforts, especially given the nature of Japan's opener midway through the first half, with Hiroshi Kiyotake seemingly a couple of yards offside before his cross was cheekily converted by Genki Haraguchi's flicked finish.

Vahid Halilhodzic's side were well shackled in their efforts to force a winner following Abdulameer's equaliser, although Keisuke Honda went agonisingly close with a header against the outside of the post.

But in time added on, a free-kick from the left was headed clear and Yamaguchi thumped a superb first-time volley through a crowded penalty area from 25 yards to spark wild celebrations from the hosts.

Japan - who have reached each of the past five World Cups - now have six points from three matches. They meet Australia next Tuesday in Melbourne. 
The Caltex Socceroos have seven points along with fellow group leader Saudi Arabia after the two nations drew 2-2 in Jeddah.

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