Japan is on to the World Cup!

Good morning everyone,

It actually felt a little cooler last night on the way home...is the oppressive heat of summer coming to an end? Well, maybe not quite yet, but the mornings and evenings are becoming bearable anyway. Highs all week will be in the low 30s and overnight lows in the low 20s. There's no rain in the forecast, so it'll be sunny and warm this weekend.

Japan defeated Asian champions Australia 2-0 at home on Thursday night to qualify for next year's World Cup finals in Russia. Goals in each half from Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi earned the victory to secure Japan one of the two automatic berths from Group B. The Blue Samurai reached the finals for the sixth time in a row.

Japan won the group with an unassailable four-point cushion over Saudi Arabia, who lost 2-1 away to United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, and Australia with one game remaining. Vahid Halilhodzic's side play the Saudis away in their final qualifier in Jeddah next Tuesday, while Australia host already eliminated Thailand the same day in Melbourne.

Japan made a fast start and went close to opening the scoring with less than two minutes on the clock, Hiroki Sakai heading Ideguchi's corner just wide of the right-hand post. Takashi Inui then tried his luck with a curling effort that was deflected out for a corner, and Yuya Osako tested the Australian keeper with a shot that he just managed to gather at the second attempt.

Japan got a huge scare when Mathew Leckie hit the post from seven minutes before halftime.

But Halilhodzic's men side took the lead soon after as Asano got on the end of Yuto Nagatomo's cross to steer home a 41st-minute volley and trigger delirious scenes among the home fans. "It was a great ball from Yuto-san and it was just a case of me getting on the end of it," Asano said of his goal. "I am always getting myself ready in case I get called on to start and just want to do everything I can on the pitch and try and put a smile on the fans faces."

Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima did well to get down and deny Robbie Kruse as Australia looked to hit back early in the second half. The Socceroos increased the pressure and a superb block from Sakai thwarted Kruse again but Ideguchi's 82nd-minute strike sealed Japan's first win in eight attempts over Australia in World Cup qualifying.

The Gamba Osaka player, who had earlier had a shot blocked off the line, took a pass from substitute Genki Haraguchi and cut inside to rifle past Ryan for his first Japan goal. "I was just hoping to get the shot on target and I am glad it went in," said Ideguchi, who was playing in only his third senior international.

With the win, Japan has officially qualified for next year's World Cup in Russia. It's great news, but they haven't won anything yet, I hope they actually do well when they get there.

As for the Carp, don't ask...hopefully they'll do better when they get back to Hiroshima for some games.

Have a great day!


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