Iran's loss inspires Saudi Arabia to qualify

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Saudi Arabia thrash Thailand 4-1 in Riyadh to book their place in next year's World Cup football finals.

Updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Iran will have to take a circuitous route to book a place for next year's football World Cup. They would have been through with a win over Bahrain. Now Iran will be looking at the two play-off's before they can be sure to go to South Korea and Japan. Iran's qualification plan for the 2002 World Cup received an early setback as Bahrain opened the scoring in the seventh minute through Abdullah Abdul Rahman. Bahrain doubled its lead in the 45th minute when Hussein Ali Ahmed beat the Iranian keeper. Iran capitalized when Bahrain were down to ten men in the 81st minute. Iran's star striker Ali Daei, a veteran of the German Bundesliga, helped his team to pull one back. Iran looked like they had a chance. But a fight broke out between the players from both teams when Iranian players rushed to retrieve the ball from the net. The fight earned one of the Iranian players a red card. There was another send off. One of the Iranian players was sent off for kicking the Bahrain goalkeeper and Iran was reduced to ten men. Amid insult and injury for Iran, Bahrain completed its win by scoring in the stoppage time for a 3-1 victory. It is the first time Bahrain has beaten Iran. Saudis take their chance Iran's loss meant that Saudi Arabia was in with a chance to take the automatic spot if they could beat Thailand. Playing at home, the Saudi side started nervously, and needed 40 minutes before Abdullah al-Sheehan finally found the back of the net. A minute into the second half and Abdullah al Jamaan's header saw Saudi Arabia increase its lead to 2-0. Thailand managed to pull one back. But the Saudis struck twice to earn three points and confirm their place in the 2002 World Cup. Iran are now in the second place in Group 1. They now play United Arab Emirates, the runners up of Group 2. The UAE have finished second behind China. The winner of the Iran-UAE game will have a playoff against Ireland for a possible fifth spot for Asia in the world cup next year.

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