• Kyodo

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Genk’s Junya Ito scored a second straight goal in World Cup qualifying as Japan defeated Oman 1-0 on Tuesday at Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Stadium, to climb to second in the Asia Group B standings with 12 points.

Hajime Moriyasu’s men are four points behind leader Saudi Arabia. The top two finishers in the group will qualify automatically for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 while the third-placed side will advance into a series of playoffs.

Kaoru Mitoma, who made his senior Japan debut when he came off the bench to replace Gaku Shibasaki in the second half, created the goal. The Brighton forward went past a defender and crossed for the Belgium-based winger to turn in the only goal of the game nine minutes from time.

Ito’s goal earned the Samurai Blue a third win in a row and avenged their 1-0 loss to Oman in their opening match of the Asian World Cup qualifying stage in September.

“It was a really tough match but our persistence and determination to win led to that goal. We moved up to second but positions can change again if we let our guard down,” Japan manager Moriyasu said.

With four wins and two losses in the group, Japan next faces China on Jan. 27, likely at Saitama Stadium. Their last three games are against Saudi Arabia, Australia and Vietnam.

Australia are third with 11 points and Oman remain in fourth on seven points. China have five points and Vietnam have zero.

In Group A, South Korea improved to 14 points after six matches, two back of frontrunner Iran.

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