Asia's most accomplished teams at Men's Olympic Football Tournaments enjoyed differing fortunes as the third qualifying stage for London 2012 kicked off on Wednesday.
In the far east, both eight-time Olympic participants Korea Republic and Mexico 1968 bronze medallists Japan cruised to a 2-0 victory at home over Oman and Malaysia respectively. However in central Asia, Athens 2004 semi-finalists Iraq were dealt an blow by an identical scoreline at the hands of hosts Uzbekistan, while Australia were held to a goalless draw by visiting United Arab Emirates.
The action in west Asia saw Saudi Arabia share spoils with Qatar in a 1-1 stalemate and it was unfancied Syria that produced the night's biggest win after beating ten-man Bahrain 3-1. Please join FIFA.com as we take a closer look at the enthralling encounters across Asia.
Japan 2-0 Malaysia
Keigo Higashi and Ryohei Yamazaki scored in each half as Japan saw off Malaysia to get their campaign off to a perfect start. Having focused on defensive drills in the build-up, the south-east Asians began cautiously aiming to hold the hosts off for at least a share of the points. However, their rearguard was breached as early as ten minutes when Higashi latched onto a Hiroshi Kiyotake pass to open the scoring.
Japan went on to dominate thereafter but the Malaysians, with their goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi in brilliant form, defended gallantly to keep their hopes of comeback alive. The home side, though, continued to pile on the pressures and their patience paid off on 77 minutes when Kensuke Nagai set Yamazaki up to seal the three points.
Uzbekistan 2-0 Iraq
Second-half substitute Kenja Turaev scored one and set up another as Uzbekistan emerged 2-0 victors over Iraq in Tashkent. In what proved to be a lacklustre encounter, neither side showed any cutting edge in the early stages with chances few and far between. While enjoying home support, the Uzbeks looked to be lacking in creativity while the Iraqis seemed content to come away with a draw.
But the tide turned in the hosts' favour with 20 minutes left when Turaev was sent on to enhance the attack. And within a minute of entering the fray, the dynamic forward helped his side take the lead, setting Temurkhuja Abdukoliqov up to fire home. The provider then turned scorer within seven minutes by pouncing onto an attempted clearance to round off the triumph.
The other attractions
The unlikely win put the central Asians into the driving seat in Group B heading into their next outing in two months against UAE, who obtained a precious away point in Australia. The Olyroos pressed hard from the outset but the visitors looked more dangerous in the early stages with their forward Ahmed Khalil constantly threatening their goal. At the other end, captain Oliver Bozanic came close to opening the scoring on more than one occasion but his efforts lacked accuracy.
In Group A, despite playing without their European-based stars, Korea Republic still looked too strong for Oman with goals from Yoon Bitgaram and Kim Bo-Kyung giving them a deserved opening win. The former opened the scoring midway through the first half, before the latter put the seal to the victory 16 minutes from time. The result, coupled with Saudi Arabia's 1-1 home draw against Qatar, saw the young Taeguk Warriors top the section.
Elsewhere, Syria firmly stated their intention of making their first return to the global showpiece since Moscow 1980, with an emphatic victory over Bahrain. The Syrians took the initiative when Mohammed Fares broke the deadlock on the quarter-hour. After the Bahrainis were reduced to ten men with the dismissal of skipper of Rashed Al Hooti on the half-hour mark, Syria then doubled the lead before the break courtesy of Oday Al Jafalagain. Fares put the game beyond doubt with his second goal, leaving Mohamed Mahorfi's late penalty nothing more than a consolation for the visitors. With the three points Syria are sitting atop Group C leading Japan on goal difference.
Having scored in Cerezo Osaka's 4-3 defeat of Jeonbuk Motors in their recent AFC Champions League quarter-final first-leg meeting, Kim Bo-Kyung continued his continental emergence as he helped steer Korea Republic past Oman.
3 – The number of goals claimed by substitutes out of the 12 scored in the round.
What they said
"It was certainly a difficult night for us, in no way did we ever get our rhythm. We just struggled all night, even to control the ball. We couldn't find our feet for whatever reason... maybe it was a little bit of nerves because we started very jittery," Australia coach Aurelio Vidmar
Asian Olympic qualifying, third stage, matchday 1 results:
Group A: Korea Republic 2-0 Oman; Saudi Arabia 1-1 Qatar
Group B: Uzbekistan 2-0 Iraq; Australia 0-0 United Arab Emirates
Group C: Syria 3-1 Bahrain; Japan 2-0 Malaysia