South Korea and Japan work hard, Palestinians romp
TOKYO: South Korea and Japan, co-hosts of the last World Cup Finals, both made hard work of winning their opening Asian qualifiers for the 2006 tournament while tiny Palestine pulled off the biggest win in their history on Wednesday.
South Korea beat a spirited Lebanon 2-0 at home in Group Seven while Asian champions Japan scraped a 1-0 win over Oman in Group Three. Saudi Arabia began their rehabilitation with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Indonesia.
Palestine, playing all of their Group Two matches away for security reasons, crushed Taiwan 8-0 in neutral Doha.
Surviving on a shoe-string budget since joining FIFA in 1998 and with their expenses currently being paid for by a group of 12 local businessman, the Palestinians overpowered Taiwan in their first World Cup qualifier beyond the preliminary stage.
Ziad Al-Kord struck first after just eight minutes before two goals from Safwan Habiab put Palestine out of reach in front of less than 500 spectators.
“It was a good win for us, a good start to our campaign,” said Palestine's Austrian coach Alfred Riedl.
“It took us 10 to 15 minutes to settle down but once we were 2-0 up everything went superbly.”
In Suwon, Cha Du-ri and Cho Byung-kuk scored with close-range headers as South Korea beat Lebanon 2-0 but the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists were indebted to goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae for saving a 31st-minute penalty.
Two minutes later, German-based striker Du-ri put the home side in front and centre-back Byung-kok doubled their lead five minutes into the second half, nodding in a Park Ji-sung corner to settle South Korean nerves.
A wasteful Japan also missed from the penalty spot and only an injury-time goal from substitute Tatsuhiko Kubo gave the Asian champions a 1-0 victory over plucky Oman.
Midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura had his spot-kick saved by goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi in the 30th minute and was guilty of another glaring miss midway through the second half.
In Guangzhou, talisman Hao Haidong struck in the 75th minute as China beat Kuwait 1-0 in an bad-tempered Group Four match in front of a 70,000 crowd.
Trouble flared late on in the match, with Kuwait's Fahad Al-Hamad sent off two minutes from time for spitting in defender Li Weifeng's face.
In Hanoi, midfielder Phan Van Tai Em scored twice as Vietnam thrashed Indian Ocean islanders the Maldives 4-0 to go above South Korea on goal difference in Group Seven.
India joined Japan at the top of Group Three with a 1-0 win over Singapore in Margao.