South Korea thumped Chinese Taipei 8-0 yesterday to inch closer
to qualification for next year's Asian Cup finals, as China was
held to an embarrassing 0-0 draw by Singapore.
The emphatic rout put South Korea within a point of making the
showpiece event, to be jointly hosted by Thailand, Indonesia,
Vietnam and Malaysia, with two games left to play - a home tie
against Syria followed by a trip to Iran.
Fielding a strong line-up including Premier League stars Park
Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo and Seol Ki-hyeon, Korea was 2-0 ahead
within four minutes and Chinese Taipei never recovered.
Jung Jo-gook helped himself to a hat-trick while Seol Ki-Hyeon
and Cho Jae-jin both scored a brace. Kim Do-heon also got on the
South Korea, having last won the Asian Cup in 1960, now lead
Group B by five points over Iran, next to play Syria.
China travelled to Singapore on a mission after only narrowly
beating the Southeast Asian champions 1-0 through an injury time
goal when they met in Tianjin three weeks ago.
Coach Zhu Guanghu drafted in Shao Jiayi from Energie Cottbus,
Anderlecht forward Dong Fangzhuo and Sheffield United midfielder Li
Tie but despite a second-half onslaught the beaten 2004 finalists
failed to make a breakthrough.
To make matters worse, Shao was sent off for an off-the-ball
clash with Daniel Bennet and will miss their next game. It leaves
China with seven points in Group E. Iraq have six points but play
the Palestinians later in the day, due to a game in hand. Singapore
remains in the hunt with four points.
Australia have already made the finals and they could be joined
later Wednesday by defending champions Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar
and the United Arab Emirates.
Only two teams advance from each group with head-to-head results
counting as a tie-breaker if teams are point-tied.
Japan will seal their place and keep alive their hopes of
becoming the first ever team to win the Asian Cup four times if
they can defeat Yemen. The Japanese are currently second in their
group behind Saudi Arabia, who can book their berth with a victory
over struggling India in Jeddah.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer leads Australia against
Kuwait in another late match, with coach Graham Arnold picking a
team packed with World Cup stars in his bid to go through the
qualifying campaign unbeaten.
Other fixtures see Qatar play Bangladesh and the United Arab
Emirates at home to Jordan. Victories for Qatar and UAE will see
them through to the finals.
(China Daily September 7, 2006)