Kaoru Mitoma scored twice the final goal to secure Japan’s place in the Qatar 2022 World Cup by beating their hosts Australia with a 2-0 win in Sydney on Friday.
The Union SG winner came off the bench to snatch the last two goals and broke the hearts of the Socceroos with a second-half strike that proved invaluable to the visitors.
Launched in the 84th minute for Liverpool striker Takumi Minamino, Mitoma marked his first attempt five minutes later after cutting a back-to-back pass past Matthew Ryan.
He then doubled his number at the time of injury to win, climbed into the box in a good run alone before pushing Ryan to finish.
The victory means Samurai Blue leads by six points ahead of Australia, to secure itself and Saudi Arabia as the latest AFC qualifiers after Iran and South Korea book a place.
Graham Arnold’s third-placed team will still have a chance to reach Qatar in the fourth round of the AFC, where they will face the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon or Iraq.