Asia’s second-ranked team visiting its 40th was a major blowout, as Japan smashed Mongolia 14-0 on Tuesday to wrap up the final day of World Cup qualifying until June
Only three matches were played during this international window, further unbalancing the tables at what remains a group stage stalled at its midway point.
Japan reached the midway point of group play with a perfect 5-0 record. The Samurai Blue is yet to concede a goal over five matches versus Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia, who lost the reverse fixture 6-0 but otherwise has a win, three one-goal losses, and a 3-0 away loss to Tajikistan.
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The top teams from each group qualify for the third round of qualifying, with five of eight second-place nations also moving into the third round.
The third round has two groups of six teams, with two teams qualifying for the World Cup and the two third-placed teams tangling in a two-legged fourth round for AFC’s inter-confederation playoff spot.
Mongolia 0-14 Japan
The scoreline doesn’t even look right, does it?
Japan scored five times by halftime, six times in the next 45 minutes, and a near-merciless thrice in the three minutes of stoppage time, out-attempting Mongolia 34-2 and putting 25 of those shots on target.
Werder Bremen forward Yuya Osako had three goals and an assist and Genk winger Junya Ito had two goals and three assists as a part of his 97-touch day, the 28-year-old Genk man earning his place on the box score.
Kyogo Furuhashi added a brace and Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino also scored, as did Daichi Kamada, Hidemasa Morita, Sho Inagaki, and Takuma Asano.
Saudi Arabia 5-0 Palestine
Saleh Al-Shehri scored twice and Salem Al-Dawsari had a goal and an assist as Saudi Arabia moved ahead of Uzbekistan to top Group D.
Palestine is seven points off the pace and in the group’s basement despite playing one more game than the other four teams.
State of play
Syria leads Group A and would need a total collapse to fail to make the third round. China is next, holding a match-in-hand on the Philippines and Maldives.
Australia is in the Group B driver’s seat, with Kuwait and Jordan in play for the second third-round spot.
Iraq is a surprise leader of Group C, with Bahrain two points back and Iran five points behind but holding a match-in-hand.
Saudi Arabia has a two-point advantage on Uzbekistan, four clear of third-place Singapore.
2022 World Cup hosts Qatar join Oman are heavy favorites to advance from Group E, while Japan is cruising toward the third round atop Group F and Tajikistan, Krygyzstan, and Myanmar could all lay claim to second.
VIetnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and UAE are all capable of coming out of Group G, while Turkmenistan leads Group H by a point over South Korea, Lebanon, and North Korea. The South Koreans have played one fewer match.