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Takumi Minamino books World Cup spot thanks to late Japan victory!

Takumi Minamino is heading to the 2022 World Cup after Japan struck late in Australia to guarantee an automatic spot with one qualifying game remaining.

The permutations were clear for Minamino and Japan on their trip to Sydney, with a victory enough to book their ticket to the World Cup in Qatar as one of two automatic qualifiers.

The occasion was also a must-win for Australia in their bid to stay alive in the race for automatic qualification for the tournament later this year, but it was the visitors who dominated.

Minamino, a regular for his country, was alongside Maya Yoshida, former Southampton defender, and had the task of putting the ball past former Brighton and Arsenal goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

And the best chances of the first half fell Minamino’s way, but none could be converted despite his best efforts with the upright and crossbar twice denying a valuable goal.

Working himself expertly into space in the box, Liverpool’s No. 18 first did well to twice turn and get a shot away, only narrowly wide of the upright, before then seeing his header bounce off the inside of the post and into Ryan’s hands.

It looked a certainty to nestle in the net but like his next effort, the woodwork again played its part as he ended the first half with five shots but no goals, to keep the scoreline 0-0.

It proved a physical encounter, and largely untroubled in defence it was up to Japan to find the breakthrough and while Minamino had further chances in the second half, he couldn’t find the golden touch.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu then called Minamino’s number in the 84th minute, replaced by Kaoru Mitoma, on loan from Brighton at Union SG, for the final exchanges. It would soon see him race down the touchline in jubilation.

In the 89th minute, it was Minamino’s replacement who steered a shot into the far corner after a wonderful pullback from the byline that VAR could find no fault with after a suggestion of an offside in the buildup.

Mitoma then added the finishing touches with the clock reading 90+4 minutes, with his low driven shot managing to squeeze under Ryan, who ought to have done better as Japan ended the night with a 2-0 win.

The result sends Japan to their seventh consecutive World Cup, and Minamino joins the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk in seeing their respective countries qualify.

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