2018 WORLD CUP

Lippi says China “need a miracle" after being held by Qatar

Marcello Lippi's dreams of taking China to 2018 World Cup Russia took a blow on Tuesday, while Australia were held in Bangkok.

Lippi says China “need a miracle" after being held by Qatar
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Marcello Lippi's dreams of taking China to 2018 World Cup Russia took a fresh blow on Tuesday, while Australia were left counting their lucky stars to scrape a draw in Bangkok.

China's goalless draw with Qatar did nothing to boost their fading hopes of reaching the finals - even after Lippi, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, was appointed last month.

Slim chances fading fast

Lippi was unable to get off to a winning start with China which would have lifted the team off bottom place in Group A and admits they now “need a miracle” to qualify for what would be their second World Cup finals.

China enjoyed more chances in the game but they were unable to find a breakthrough against Qatar, who remain second from bottom and also look unlikely to qualify for the 2018 finals.

It's been a great week for Hiroshi Kiyotake

Australia forced to bounce back

Over in Bangkok, a Teerasil Dangda brace left Australia on the brink of a shock defeat, before skipper Mile Jedinak scored his second penalty of the night on 65 minutes. The draw means Australia drop from second to provisional third in their group, one point behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, with only the top two gaining automatic qualification for Russia.

Goals from Sevilla's Hiroshi Kiyotake and Genki Haraguchi put Japan back on track as they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Saitama to go level on points with the visitors at the top of Group B. Kiyotake's penalty on the stroke of half-time was hotly disputed by the Saudis and scuffles broke out between the players as they disappeared down the tunnel.

“Credit to the players for beating a good Saudi team”, said Japan coach Vahid Halilhodžić afterwards. “This is a big victory for us but it was a deserved one. We have had to stay strong to come back from some difficult situations and no doubt there will be more to overcome before we get to Russia”.

Happy birthday boss

South Korea gave their coach Uli Stielike a 62nd birthday to remember but there were some nerve-fraying moments after Uzbekistan's Marat Bikmaev opened the scoring on 25 minutes. Nam Tae-Hee equalised after half-time then Koo rifled the winner on 85 minutes, ensuring Stielike's men leapfrog the Uzbeks into second place in Group A. Iran were held 0-0 by Syria in Malaysia but they remain top of the group, one point ahead of South Korea.