Five-star Iraq, Australia progress in Asian World Cup qualifying

Published March 27, 2024
BANGKOK: South Korea’s Son Heung-min (back) in action during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Thailand at the Rajamangala National Stadium
on Tuesday.—Reuters
BANGKOK: South Korea’s Son Heung-min (back) in action during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Thailand at the Rajamangala National Stadium on Tuesday.—Reuters

HONG KONG: Iraq and Australia were in rampant goalscoring form on Tuesday as they both cruised into the third round of Asia’s 2026 World Cup preliminaries wins against the Philippines and Lebanon respectively, while Son Heung-min’s South Korea are on the brink of joining them after beating Thailand.

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.

The Iraqis notched up their fourth victory in a row to advance as Jesus Casas’ side thumped the Philippines, ranked 139th in the world.

Aymen Hussein scored twice in the first half, either side of a goal from Amir Ali Ammari, while former Manch­ester United midfielder Zidane Iqbal and Zayed Tahseen were on target in the 61st and 77th minutes respectively.

The win moves Iraq onto 12 points in Group ‘F’, nine clear of third-placed Vietnam, who suffered a damaging 3-0 loss in Hanoi against Indonesia.

 MANILA: Iraq’s Zaid Tahseen Hantoosh (top) vies for the ball with Jens Sebastian Rasmussen of the Philippines during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.—AFP
MANILA: Iraq’s Zaid Tahseen Hantoosh (top) vies for the ball with Jens Sebastian Rasmussen of the Philippines during the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday.—AFP

That result strengthens Indonesia’s hopes of a place in the next round as Shin Tae-yong’s team consolidate their hold on second place in the group ahead of the Vietnamese with two games remaining.

Jay Noah Idzes gave the visitors the lead in the ninth minute and further goals from Rangar Oratmangoen and Muha­m­mad Sananta sealed a key success for the South East Asians.

The top two finishers in each of the nine groups advance to the next round of qualifying, which will see 18 teams battle for Asia’s eight guaranteed berths at the first-ever 48-team World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States in 2026.

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.”

With less than two minutes on the clock, the impressive Goodwin crossed from the left for Yengi to score his first goal for Australia from close range.

Australia put the game beyond Lebanon in the first three minutes of the second half. Bassel Jradi knocked in an own goal following a corner and Goodwin fired home a third.

John Iredale came off the bench to make it 4-0 midway through the second half with his first international goal, and Goodwin added his second and Australia’s fifth with nine minutes remaining thanks to an Iredale assist.

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.

Michel Termanini scored two minutes after Amid Mahajna’s 92nd minute sending off for a second yellow card to move the Palestinians five points ahead of third-placed Lebanon.

Palestine just need a draw with Lebanon in their next match in June to guarantee their progress from Group ‘I’.

SOUTH KOREA WIN

The South Koreans, meanwhile, put Thursday’s disappointing draw with Thailand in Seoul behind them in the return clash in Bangkok.

Lee bundled his effort over the goal line in the 19th minute following Cho Gue-sung’s centre and Son doubled the lead nine minutes after the interval from Lee Kang-in’s incisive pass.

Park completed the win eight minutes from time with a close-range volley after Kim Min-jae had headed Kim Jin-su’s cross into his path.

China moved into second in the group after hammering Singapore, with new captain Wu Lei scoring twice in Tianjin to take Branko Ivankovic’s side onto seven points from four games, three ahead of the third-placed Thais.

Wu took over the armband from Zhang Linpeng who was left out of the starting line-up by coach 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 Nanduo restored the lead from the penalty 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 Shihao scored the fourth.

The North Korea-Japan qualifier in Pyongyang was canceled by FIFA after Korea said it couldn’t host the game.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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