Iran became the first country in qualifying from Asia to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar after beating Iraq 1-0 in Tehran on Thursday.
Medhi Taremi’s goal, at the beginning of the second half at the Azadi Stadium, ensured Iran’s third consecutive participation in the World Cup, with three rounds remaining to complete the tie.
Iran has 19 points from seven games, two more than South Korea, which fell just short of making its 10th straight World Cup appearance after beating Lebanon 1-0.
Without Tottenham striker Son Heung-min ruled out through injury, Chi Gue-song scored from close range as first-half stoppage time was played in Sidon. South Korea can seal its ticket with a win over Syria on Tuesday.
The United Arab Emirates are in third place, eight points behind, after beating bottom side Syria 2-0. Caio Canedo and Yahya Al-Ghassani scored the goals.
The top two in each group qualify directly for the World Cup. The third will advance to a continental playoff to define the rival that will face the fifth from South America.
In Group B, Australia and Japan increased their siege on leaders Saudi Arabia.
The Australians thrashed Vietnam 4-0 in Melbourne on Thursday, while the Japanese beat China 2-0 in Saitama.
Australia is third in the group, one point behind Japan. Saudi Arabia faced Oman later.
China fell nine points behind Australia with three games remaining.
The Australians, who have played in every World Cup since 2006, were without coach Graham Arnold, isolated after testing positive for COVID-19.
Jamie McLaren, Tom Rogic, Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree scored the goals for Australia.
Yuya Osako converted a penalty and Junya Ito scored the other for Japan.