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FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Finals spots up for grabs

Australia face Iraq on Tuesday looking to secure a third straight appearance in the FIFA World Cup, with South Korea also on the verge.

The AFC Group B qualifying fixture, which will be hosted at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, is critical for the Socceroos as anything other than victory could see them face a play-off against the third-placed team from Group A.

They currently occupy second place, and will be looking to build on the momentum they have established in their last two qualifying fixtures.
A hard earned 1-1 draw with group leaders Japan, was followed by a 4-0 rout of Jordan to leave Holger Osieck’s side on the brink of qualification.
Iraq suffered a late 1-0 defeat to Japan last week, which killed their slim hopes of securing a place at the World Cup in Brazil.
They will be without Younis Mahmoud and Nashat Akram due to a dispute with the Iraq Football Association, while Alaa Abdul-Zahra misses the game through suspension after seeing red against Japan.
Oman will be looking to capitalise on any slip-up from Australia.
They face Jordan knowing anything other than victory will end their hopes of automatic qualification, but secured a precious three points against Iraq in their last outing to set up the a tense final round of fixtures.
Jordan’s hopes of automatic qualification were all but finished by their heavy defeat to Australia, and would require a huge goal swing to go through with Japan.
But their hopes of making it to Brazil would be still be alive if they win the game, as they would leap-frog Oman into the play-off spot.
In Group A, a place in Brazil is to play for as leaders South Korea host second-place Iran in Ulsan.
The result of their fixture, however, will be irrelevant if Uzbekistan fail to pick up three points against Qatar.
But if Uzbekistan do win, automatic qualification will be a very realistic prospect as just three points separate first and third, although South Korea crucially have a superior goal difference.
South Korea beat Uzbekistan 1-0 on Tuesday, to put them on the verge of qualification.
It would mark an impressive eighth-straight appearance at World Cup finals, with their best ever performance coming in 2002 as they reached the semi-finals under the stewardship of Guus Hiddink.
Iran boast the best defensive record in the qualifying groups, and will be hoping to secure their first appearance in the finals since 2006.
Sun 16 Jun, 2013
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