FIFA World Cup qualifiers: China advance after crucial win, Aus & Japan unbeaten

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In a high-stakes, must-win game to have any chance of getting to Qatar in 2022, China beat group-leading Syria 3-1 to advance to the third round in Asian qualifying for the World Cup.

Syria had already confirmed its place among the final 12 as one of the eight group winners and China’s win secured progression as one of the four best-performing runners-up.

Zhang Xizhe scored two minutes before the break and second-half goals from Wu Lei and Zhang Yuning sealed China’s fourth consecutive win. China’s only World Cup appearance was in 2002, when Japan and South Korea co-hosted soccer’s marquee tournament in Asia for the first time.

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The third round of qualifying starts in September.

Australia and Japan had already secured their places but were the only two teams to do so by winning all eight games in the second round.

Iran beat Iraq 1-0 on Sardar Azmoun’s first-half goal to seal top spot in Group C, though both teams advanced.

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The United Arab Emirates topped Group G by defeating Vietnam 3-2. Both teams progressed to the next round.

Saudi Arabia finished first in Group D with the 3-0 win over Uzbekistan, which was eliminated. Salman Al-Faraj scored twice and Ali Al-Hassan had one in the match played in Riyadh.

Oman and Lebanon confirmed their spots in the next round to join South Korea, which qualified Sunday.

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Australia beat Jordan 1-0 in a gritty game in Kuwait City, with Stoke City defender Harry Souttar heading home after 77 minutes to score his sixth goal in just his fifth international appearance.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” the 22-year-old Souttar said of his tally, but “forget about the goal. It was all about the performance and the three points.”

Australia played seven of its eight matches away from home in the second round because of restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, scoring 28 goals and conceding just two.

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Souttar said the Australian squad had four wins heading into the second half of the group stage in Kuwait and “we were desperate to win another four.”

They went into the Jordan match chasing history, hoping to be the first Socceroos team to win eight straight games in World Cup qualifying.

“We knew that stat before the game,” he said. “You can see from the celebrations, they’re so excited.”

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At Osaka, a hat trick in six minutes by Ado Onaiwu highlighted Japan’s 5-1 victory over Kyrgyzstan.

In his first international start, Onaiwu put Japan ahead from the penalty spot after 27 minutes and quickly added two more. Kyrgyzstan pulled a goal back just before the break via a Mirlan Murzaev penalty, just the second Japan conceded in the group.

Sho Sasaki restored Japan’s three-goal cushion with 18 minutes remaining and Takuma Asano added a fifth five minutes later to take Japan’s total to 46 in the second round.

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