Japan hand Saudis first defeat in WC qualifying group

AP , Tuesday 1 Feb 2022

A first-half goal from Takumi Minamino set Japan on the way to beating Saudi Arabia 2-0 at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday and keeping the host on course for a seventh successive World Cup appearance.

Japan players
Japan s players celebrate their second goal against Saudi Arabia during their World Cup 2022 group B qualifying soccer match at Saitama Stadium 2002 in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP)

Minamino's goal from close range after 31 minutes was created by Junya Ito. The Belgian-based winger then added the second soon after the restart with a fierce shot from the edge of the area to seal a first defeat for the Saudis in Asia Group B qualifying.

Saudi Arabia, which would have qualified for a sixth World Cup with a victory, still led the group with 19 points, one more than Japan. Australia will move on to 17 with a win over Oman later Tuesday.

The top two teams from each of the two groups automatically qualifies. The third-place teams advance to playoffs.

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