Beaten China squeeze into final phase of World Cup qualifying

By AFP
June 12, 2024
South Korean skipper Son Heung-min gets away from China's Xie Wenneng. — AFP/file

HONG KONG: China squeezed into the third and final round of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup despite suffering a 1-0 defeat at South Korea on Tuesday, with Indonesia also progressing.

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Paris Saint-Germain´s Lee Kang-in scored just after the hour in Seoul for South Korea, who were already into the next qualifying phase as group winners. The damaging loss left China´s World Cup hopes hanging by a thread, but Thailand failed to take advantage as their dreams of progressing fell agonisingly short.

They needed to beat basement side Singapore by three goals in Bangkok to leapfrog China into second place in Group C of the second qualifying phase, but the Thais could only win 3-1.

In contrast to the crushing disappointment in Bangkok, Indonesia celebrated reaching the third qualifying round for the first time with a 2-0 home victory over the Philippines.

Indonesia joined Iraq in advancing out of Group F, with Thom Haye and Rizky Ridho the goal-scoring heroes on the night in Jakarta.

Elsewhere, coach Hajime Moriyasu warned Japan that the final qualifying round will be “a completely different level” after thrashing Syria 5-0 to go through with a 100 percent record. Moriyasu´s side completed the second qualifying stage on maximum points with 24 goals scored and none conceded after an easy win in Hiroshima. Japan are looking to qualify for their eighth straight World Cup when the tournament takes place in the US, Canada and Mexico.

“We were facing a team that had to win, and the players got the result by working hard to prepare, doing the things that they had to do,” said the coach. “But the final round coming up will be a completely different level from the second round.”

Syria were left to sweat on a place in the next phase.

North Korea need just a point at Group B bottom side Myanmar later Tuesday to leapfrog Syria and progress.

In a dead rubber in Group I, Australia thrashed Palestine 5-0 in Perth with Portsmouth´s Kusini Yengi scoring twice, one from the spot. Both sides were already into the next phase.

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