Five-goal Australia, Iraq advance in Asia World Cup qualifying

AFP , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

Australia and Iraq were in rampant goalscoring form on Tuesday as they both cruised into the next stage of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, while Son Heung-min's South Korea are on the brink of joining them after beating Thailand.

Australia’s Craig Goodwin (R) fights for the ball with Lebanon’s goalkeeper Mustafa Matar (L) during the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier football match between Australia and Lebanon at Bruce Stadium in Canberra on March 26, 2024. Photo: AFP


Australia handed out a 5-0 drubbing to Lebanon in Canberra in Group I while Iraq progressed from Group F after brushing aside the Philippines by the same score in Manila.

In Group C, Son scored as South Korea look favourites to go through after a 3-0 win against Thailand in Bangkok, while China got their qualifying hopes back on track with a 4-1 win against Singapore.

Park Jin-seob and Lee Jae-sun joined the Tottenham Hotspur star on the scoresheet and South Korea now need only a draw in Singapore in June to go through.

Australia's Craig Goodwin led his side to a fourth straight qualifying victory with two goals in a man-of-the-match performance, together with strikes from Kusini Yengi, John Iredale and an own goal.

"When I knew Craig Goodwin younger, he didn't believe in himself like he does these days," Australia coach Graham Arnold said of the 32-year-old, who also created the opener for Yengi and whose free-kick led to the own goal.

"He's a top-quality player, but he's a fantastic person and a great leader.

"His delivery, set pieces, is fantastic and his finishing, it's just got better and better as he gets older."

Palestine, their supporters in Gaza reeling from the Israel-Hamas war, gave themselves a great chance of going through with Australia by beating Bangladesh 1-0 in Dhaka.

Palestine just need a draw with third-placed Lebanon in their next match in June to guarantee their progress from Group I.

Captain Wu double

Aymen Hussein's 14th-minute penalty set Iraq on their way against the Philippines, ranked 139th in the world.

Amir Al Ammari's goal and a second from centre-forward Hussein gave the visitors a 3-0 half-time lead.

They completed the job with second-half strikes from Zidane Iqbal and Zaid Tahseen to make it four wins out of four in qualifying.

Indonesia beat Vietnam 3-0 in Hanoi in the group's other game.

In Tianjin, China moved into second place in Group C behind South Korea after hammering Singapore 4-1 thanks to new captain Wu Lei's double, Fei Nanduo's second-half penalty and a late goal from Wei Shihao.

Wu took over the armband from Zhang Linpeng who was left out of the starting line-up by coach Branko Ivankovic.

Zhang had quit the national side after China threw away a two-goal lead in the 2-2 draw in Singapore last week, only to make an abrupt U-turn.

Wu put China ahead in the 21st minute, running on to Zhang Yuning's through ball before deftly chipping the onrushing Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny.

But the lead lasted only seconds as Singapore broke down the right straight from the restart with Ryhan Stewart crossing for Faris Ramli to power a header past Wang Dalei.

Fei restored the lead from the spot on 65 minutes.

China finished the match with 10 men after Li Yuanyi was given a straight red card for a foul in the 79th minute.

But Wu cut in from the left and lashed home five minutes from time before Wei scored the fourth.

The top two from each of the nine Asian groups will advance to the third round of 2026 World Cup qualifying.

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