Japan became the first team to reach the 2014 World Cup following an exciting 1-1 draw with Australia on Tuesday.
Keisuke Honda was the hero after he converted a penalty shot in extra time to ensure the Samarai Blue booked their trip to Brazil next year.
The Asian champions are now seven points clear at the top of their qualifying group and secured a place in the World Cup for the fifth consecutive time.
Japan’s manager Alberto Zaccheroni said they had reached their main objective but wants to make a big splash at next year’s tournament.
“I have achieved one of the goals I was hired for,” he said. “But qualifying is not enough. We have a strong commitment to playing well so we must aim higher in Brazil.”
Tommy Oar opened the scoring for the Australians in the 82nd minute with a fortuitous chip over goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, which looked like the winning goal.
However, Japan was awarded a late penalty when Matthew McKay handled the ball in the area to shine the spotlight directly on Honda.
The 26-year-old coolly converted the spot kick and Zaccheroni hailed the creative playmaker after the match.
“Honda is a special player,” he said. “He has two important qualities: he’s physically strong and mentally strong.
“That was his full 90-minute match since November and he was spectacular.”
The game was not devoid of any good scoring chances despite no goals in the first 82 minutes. Both goalkeepers were called upon to make saves in the first half to keep the encounter scoreless.
Australia’s Mark Schwarzer made a big stop to deny Manchester United man Shinji Kagawa at one end before Kawashima was forced into action to rob Robbie Kruse.
After Oar had given the Aussies a 1-0 lead, Kagawa’s heroics ensured Japan took a share of the spoils.
Japan becomes the first team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup while Australia is left to fight for the last automatic qualifying spot.
[Image via fifa.com]