1998 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Play-off.
Larkin Stadium, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Goals: Nakayama 40, Jo 75, Okano 118; Azizi 46, Daei 58
Referee: Manuel Diaz Vega ESP
JPN • Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi - Akira Narahashi, Naoki Soma, Masami Ihara (C), Yutaka Akita, Motohiro Yamaguchi, Hidetoshi Nakata, Hiroshi Nanami, Tsuyoshi Kitazawa (Masayuki Okano 91), Kazuyoshi Miura (Shoji Jo 63), Masashi Nakayama (Wagner Lopes 63).
Coach: Takeshi Okada
IRN • Ahmad Abedzadeh - Ali Akbar Ostad-Asadli (Mehrdad Minavand 55), Mohammad Khakpour, Mohammad Ali Peyravani, Ali Manrousian, Majid Namjou-Motlagh (Ali Ashgar Modir-Rosta 80), Javad Zarincheh (Mehdi Pashazadeh 65), Hamid Estili, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi.
Coach: Valdir Vierra BRA
Today, a World Cup without Japan would be considered a major surprise. But although the national team is currently chasing their seventh successive appearance at the 2022 finals in Qatar, there was a time when Japanese fans could only dream about taking their place amongst the world’s elite. After nine unsuccessful qualifying campaigns from 1954 to 1994, those dreams finally came true in the unlikely setting of the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru, just across the water from Singapore, in a game that became known as the “Ecstasy of Johor Bahru”. Hidetoshi Nakata was at the heart of everything Japan did in a pulsating game. A minute after Mehdi Mahdavikia had hit the post, Nakata’s pass put through Nakayama to give Japan the lead. And when Japan found themselves trailing with just 15 minutes to go, Nakata’s pinpoint cross found the head of Shoji Jo, who brought the scores level. Then, with just two minutes left in extra time, and moments after Ali Daei had blazed over from close range, Nakata’s shot was parried by Ahmed Abedzadeh in the Iran goal and Masayuki Okano was first to the ball to fire home the Golden Goal winner. It was well past midnight, but the Japanese fans who had turned Johor Bahru blue for the day celebrated until dawn. At last, Japan had qualified for a World Cup.