Australia and Uzbekistan put one foot in the AFC's second qualifying round for the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 following convincing wins over Chinese Taipei (11-0) and Tajikistan (4-1) in Wednesday's preliminary round, first leg ties.
However, it was Jordan who became the first of the 20 lowest-ranked Asian teams involved to officially book their place, this following the last-minute withdrawal of Kyrgystan. The western Asian outfit will now battle it out in a tough Group D that features Iran, Saudi Arabia and - barring a seemingly impossible comeback by Chinese Taipei - Australia.
Afghanistan and Vietnam, meanwhile, will do battle over 90 minutes to see who advances after the first leg was called off due to adverse weather conditions in the latter country. Having been unable to find a neutral venue, Afghanistan will have home advantage when the sides meet on 14 February, with the winners progressing to the second stage.
Australia, as expected, recorded the biggest win of the day, with the fans at Adelaide's Hindmarsh Stadium treated to a one-sided goal feast. Cheered on by a noisy home crowd, Robert Baan's side racked up eight goals in the second half alone. Seven players were on target, with Melbourne Victory midfielder Kristian Sarkies leading the way with four goals. Sydney FC defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley followed with a brace, while captain Mark Milligan, Nathan Burns, Bruce Djite, Robert Cornthwaite and Dario Vidosic also got their names on the scoresheet.
Also justifying their favourites' status were Uzbekistan, who inflicted a 4-1 defeat on Tajikistan in Tashkent. Sadriddin Abdullaev put the home side in front four minutes from break and two quick goals from Anzur Ismailov in a space of three minutes in the second half put the outcome almost beyond doubt. Ibraguim Rabimov pulled one back for the visitors on 52 minutes but their hopes of clawing back the deficit proved short-lived as Odil Akhmedov struck 15 minutes later to seal an emphatic first-leg victory for Uzbekistan.
While the first legs proved routine enough for the pre-match favourites , the competition was ferocious among the other teams involved.
An unfancied Pakistan side, for example, stole the headlines at Singapore's Jalan Besar Stadium as they came from behind to beat the hosts 2-1. Singapore took the lead after 57 minutes through Khairul Amri, but two late strikes from Mubashar Hussain and Farooq gave Pakistan a hard-fought victory and put them in strong position heading into next week's decisive second leg.
Pakistan's were not alone in relying on late goals because Thailand also needed to count on a 78th minute strike from Chakrit Buatong to register a precious 1-0 away win over widely-tipped Turkmenistan. Hong Kong also enjoyed an away triumph, proving too strong for Bangladesh with a 3-0 win in Dhaka.
Bangladesh's defeat was not the only one suffered by south Asian teams, either, with Maldives edged out 1-0 by Indonesia. The match between India and Myanmar, meanwhile, ended in a 1-1 stalemate, while Yemen scraped past western Asian rivals Palestine 2-1, leaving both ties firmly up for grabs when the teams renew hositlities.
Results from the Preliminary Round first leg matches:
Myanmar 1-1 India
Turkmenistan 0-1 Thailand
Uzbekistan 4-1 Tajikistan
Singapore 1-2 Pakistan
Bangladesh 0-3 Hong Kong
Yemen 2-1 Palestine
Indonesia 1-0 Maldives
Australia 11-0 Chinese Taipei
Jordan-Kyrgystan (Jordan automatically advance to the second round as Kyrgystan withdrew.)
Vietnam-Afghanistan (cancelled due to bad weather)