Soccer- Japan seal World Cup berth, S.Korea made to wait

Japan's goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima (right) in action against Australia's forward Tim Cahill (centre) during the Fifa World Cup 2018 qualifying soccer match between Japan and Australia in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday. Japan won 2-0 and qualified. (EPA photo)

HONG KONG -- Japan handed Australia a 2-0 defeat on Thursday that sealed the nation's sixth straight qualification for the World Cup finals and brought praise from coach Vahid Halilhodzic who heralded his young players' performance.

The Bosnian took a gamble by leaving Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa on the bench but the experienced trio were not required as Takuma Asano and 21-year-old Yosuke Ideguchi sealed his team's place at the 2018 finals in Russia.

The win means Japan will finish top of Group B in Asia's qualifying tournament while the Australians need to defeat bottom side Thailand on Tuesday and hope Saudi Arabia do not beat the Japanese to guarantee an automatic slot.

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