JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 with a 1-0 victory over Japan in a decisive Asian qualifying match on Tuesday at the King Abdulah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah.
Needing to win to qualify outright after Australia beat Thailand 2-1 earlier in Melbourne, the Green Falcons did just that before an announced full house crowd of 62,165 at the cavernous stadium.
Striker Fahad Al-Muwallad collected a pass from the right and booted in a goal to the top corner in the 63rd minute that had the home crowd erupting in jubilation.
Saudi Arabia finished the World Cup qualifiers on 19 points to advance outright to Russia 2018 as the second team from Group B with already-qualified Japan on 20 points from 10 matches.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, congratulated the Saudi national team for its win in a tweet he posted on his Twitter account.
“Congratulation to the Men of the Kingdom. Salman’s men’s qualification to 2018 World Cup. A team that deserves to represent all Arabs. Congratulation to Custodian of the Two holy Mosques and to the beloved Saudi people”.
Elsewhere, South Korea qualified from Group A alongside Iran with a goalless draw away to Uzbekistan.