By Michael Church
OSAKA, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Japan, South Korea, Australia and Iran notched up comfortable wins on Thursday as the second phase of Asia’s preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup kicked off for the region’s dominant nations with few surprises and a flurry of goals.
Japan’s Ayase Ueda scored a hat-trick as a largely second-string side defeated Myanmar 5-0 after Hajime Moriyasu chose to leave many of his leading performers on the bench ahead of their more exacting Group B clash with Syria in Jeddah on Tuesday.
Nov. 16 – From @TeamMelliIran
Iran’s national football team secured a thrilling win over Hong Kong’s national team in a World Cup qualifying match, thanks to two goals from #AzmounSardar, one from #MehdiTaremi and another from #RaminRezaian.
.#kayhanlife https://t.co/pmVdfqXFiZ… pic.twitter.com/UhPg28uoOE
— Kayhan Life (@KayhanLife) November 16, 2023
Ueda put the Japanese ahead in the 11th minute at Suita Stadium outside Osaka when he headed in Takumi Minamino’s lofted pass and Daichi Kamada doubled the advantage 17 minutes later from distance.
Ritsu Doan set up Ueda’s second in first-half injury time and he completed his hat trick five minutes into the second half after Minamino unlocked the Myanmar defence while Doan scored the fifth four minutes from time.
Australia were also untroubled as they completed a 7-0 demolition of Bangladesh in Group I with Jamie Maclaren stepping off the bench to score a second half hat-trick.
Goals from Harry Souttar and Brandon Borrello gave the hosts a two-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes before Mitchell Duke hit a brace late in the first half as Australia trampled over the south Asians at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Maclaren scored from a Jordan Bos cross shortly after the restart before pouncing again in the 70th when a Massimo Luongo shot pinged off goalkeeper Mitul Marma while Lewis Miller set up Maclaren for his hat-trick in the 84th minute.
The win put the Australians top of the early standings after Lebanon and Palestine shared a 0-0 draw in Sharjah.
South Korea scored four times in the second half to hand Singapore a 5-0 defeat in Group C at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
Cho Gue-sung put Juergen Klinsmann’s team in front a minute before the halftime break and Hwang Hee-chan added the second four minutes into the second half.
Son Heung-min hit the third in the 63rd before Hwang Ui-jo’s penalty and Lee Kang-in’s late effort wrapped up the victory.
The Koreans have been joined on three points by China, who beat Thailand 2-1 in Bangkok with Wang Shangyuan hitting the decider 16 minutes from time.
Iran top Group E after Sardar Azmoun’s early double helped them to a 4-0 win over Hong Kong. The are joined on three points by Uzbekistan, who beat Turkmenistan 3-1.
Saleh Al Shehri scored twice as Saudi Arabia won 4-0 against Pakistan in Group G, with injury-time goals from Abdulrahman Ghareeb and Abdullah Radif enhancing the scoreline while Jordan were held to a 1-1 draw by Tajikistan.
Malaysia notched up a 4-3 win over Kyrgyzstan in Group D where Oman also prevailed, securing a 3-0 win over Taiwan.
Vietnam defeated hosts the Philippines 2-0 in Group F before Iraq secured a comfortable 5-1 victory over Indonesia while in Group H the United Arab Emirates eased to a 4-0 win over Nepal.
Almoez Ali netted four times in Qatar’s 8-1 Group A demolition of Afghanistan and India had Manvir Singh’s 75th minute strike to thank for their 1-0 win over Kuwait.
North Korea play their first senior international in four years later on Thursday when they take on Syria in Jeddah in one of the last ties of the round.
(Reporting by Michael Church, additional reporting by Ian Ransom, Editing by Ken Ferris and Julien Pretot)