The United Arab Emirates (UAE) stunned South Korea 1-0 to advance to a World Cup qualifying playoff against Australia in June.
The winner of the playoff between UAE and Australia will progress to a playoff final against a team from South America with a ticket to Qatar on the line.
Hareb Abdalla’s 54th-minute strike was enough to seal a third-place finish in Group A for Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side, ensuring the UAE will take on the Socceroos in a one-off meeting in Doha on June 7.
Abdalla’s goal certainly came against the run of play against a Korean side that had not conceded a goal in their previous five qualifiers and were looking for a win that would secure a top spot in Group A.
Hwang Hee-chan could not capitalize on the dominance of the visitors, hittin the woodwork in the first half only for Abdalla to rub salt into the wounds by scoring nine minutes after the restart.
The 19-year-old, deputizing for first-choice forward Ali Mabkhout, calmly stroked Mohammed Al Baloushi’s ball past Jo Hyeon-woo.
South Korea hit the frame of the goal again six minutes later with Hwang Ui-jo’s header clipping the top of the bar. South Korea tried their best afterward but could not deny the hosts a win, who are looking to qualify for the finals for the first time since making their debut in 1990.
The UAE finished in third place in the group ahead of Iraq, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Syria.
In Group B, Australia, already assured of third place after missing out on automatic qualification following defeat by Japan last week, struggled again as a second-half penalty by Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari gave the hosts a deserved win in Jeddah.