four nations QUALIFY FOR 2010 finals

LONDON - JAPAN, Netherlands, Australia and South Korea became the first nations to qualify for next year's World Cup, joining host South Africa in the 32-nation field.

LONDON - JAPAN, Netherlands, Australia and South Korea became the first nations to qualify for next year's World Cup, joining host South Africa in the 32-nation field.

England, meanwhile, put itself in good position to advance, winning 4-0 at Kazakhstan to improve to 6-0 in Europe Group Six.

Japan became the first country to qualify for the second straight World Cup, winning 1-0 at Uzbekistan on a goal by Shinji Okazaki.

Australia will appear in back-to-back World Cups for the first time following a scoreless draw at Qatar, the Socceroos' sixth consecutive shutout in the Asian finals.

Australia and Japan each have 14 points with two games left, ensuring they can't be caught by Bahrain, Qatar, or Uzbekistan.

South Korea reached its seventh consecutive World Cup with 2-0 victory at the United Arab Emirates.

South Korea has 14 points, three ahead of North Korea, which was held to a scoreless draw at home by Iran, and four in front of Saudi Arabia. The top two teams in each Asian group qualify, and the third-place teams meet in a playoff.

The unbeaten Netherlands grabbed Europe's first berth, winning 2-1 at Iceland on goals by Nigel de Jong in the ninth minute and Mark van Bommel in the 16th. The nine European group winners qualify and the top eight second-place teams go to playoffs.

In Europe, Ireland tied 1-1 at Bulgaria in Group Eight. Italy leads with 14 points, followed by Ireland with 13 and Bulgaria with eight.

Portugal is third with nine points after winning 2-1 at Albania.

In South America, Brazil moved ahead of Paraguay into first place on goal difference with a 4-0 win at Uruguay. Brazil now has 24 points with five matches remaining.

Chile won 2-0 at Paraguay on goals by Matias Fernandez and Humberto Suazo and is third, one point ahead of Argentina, which won 1-0 over visiting Colombia.

The United States beat Honduras 2-1 later on Saturday in the North and Central American and Caribbean final round, while Mexico lost 2-1 at El Salvador. - Sapa-AP

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