The opening matchday of Asia's third qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ sent shockwaves across the continent, with favourites struggling to prove their credentials while underdogs stated their intention to mount a serious challenge.
The biggest surprises came from West Asia, where Jordan pulled off a 2-0 stunner in Iraq and Oman held Saudi Arabia to a goalless draw at home. Japan, Asia's highest-ranked team, were fortunate to edge past Korea DPR with an injury-time effort while both Australia and China PR had to battle from behind to defeat Thailand and Singapore 2-1 respectively.
Uzbekistan proved little better, claiming a single-goal win over Tajikistan. Only Korea Republic won comfortably, firing six unanswered goals past Lebanon for the night's biggest margin of victory, while Iran ran out 3-0 victors over Indonesia. Join FIFA.com as we review the most tense and thrilling moments of the opening day.
Korea Republic 6-0 Lebanon
Park Chu Young 7, 45+1, 67; Ji Dong-Won 66, 85; Kim Jung-Woo 82
Coach Cho Kwang-Rae's Taeguk Warriors put their 3-0 friendly loss to Japan in the build-up behind them as they ran riot against Lebanon in Goyang. Their English-based striking duo proved the driving force as they crushed the visitors, with Arsenal's new signing Park Chu-Young completing a hat-trick while Sunderland striker Ji Dong-Won was also on target twice.
The former opened the scoring on seven minutes before heading home on the stroke of the half-time to double the lead. The visitors hit back after the interval but their hopes of a comeback were shattered when Ji made it 3-0 on 66 minutes, before Park went on to grab his third a minute later. After Kim Jung-Woo made it five by tapping home from close range, Ji rounded off their wonderful night five minutes from time. Despite the emphatic win, they must beware of their next opponents Kuwait, who inflicted a 3-2 defeat on hosts United Arab Emirates.
Iraq 0-2 Jordan
Hasan Mahmoud 43, Abdullah Deed 47
Al Wahdat duo Hasan Mahmoud and Abdullah Deed scored either side of the half-time as Jordan stunned Iraq 2-0 for a spirited opening victory. Zico's hosts side may have enjoyed the home support at Arbil, but it was Adnan Hamad's visitors that had the better of the opening half. And the Jordanians' offensive efforts paid dividends before the break, when midfielder Mahmoud latched onto a cross to break the deadlock.
Desperate to chase the equaliser, the Iraqis rallied back after the restart, only to be caught out again. Deeb, a constant threat in front of the Iraqi goal, got his head on a fine cross to crash the upright, but the 24-year-old striker Deed was the first to pounce on the rebound, beating two defenders to slot home. The result not only put Jordan on top in Group A on goal difference above China, but also sent a warning for the East Asians ahead of their meeting in Amman four days from now.
The other attractions
The opening matchday began in tense fashion with its earliest fixture, Australia surviving a 14th-minute scare by Teerasil Dangda to claim a narrow win at home. Capitalising on a Jakkraphan Kewprom cross, the Thai forward gave the visitors an unlikely early lead by slotting past Mark Schwarzer, only for Josh Kennedy to cancel out on the hour-mark. The Socceroos piled on the pressure after that, but the Thais held on. With only four minutes left, forward Alex Brosque eased the hosts' worries as the second-half substitute clinched the winner.
Group A seeds China PR snatched a carbon-copy victory at home over a resilient Singapore as their new Spanish boss Jose Antonio Camacho got his tenure off to a winning start. Veteran playmaker Zheng Zhi proved the difference as he had a hand in their two goals. Sent on as a substitute in the second half, he cancelled out Aleksandar Duric’s first-half opener via the penalty spot on 69 minutes, before starting a move which was completed by Yu Hai four minutes later.
Group C proved one of the toughest of all, as both Japan and Uzbekistan spared their blushes late. In doing so, the former owed thanks to VVV Venlo's Maya Yoshida, whose last-gasp effort undid Korea DPR. The latter, for their part, dispatched neighbouring Tajikistan with attacking veteran Maksim Shatskikh scoring the only goal 18 minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Javad Nekonam bagged a brace as Group E seeds Iran saw off Indonesia 3-0 to top the section. In their next outing, Carlos Queiroz's winning side will travel to Doha to challenge Qatar, who shared the spoils with Bahrain in a goalless draw in Manama.
Inheriting the captain’s armband from Park Ji-Sung who retired from international football after January’s AFC Asian Cup, Park Chu-Young underlined his qualities as the true heir to the Manchester United playmaker by inspiring his side to a big victory.
41 - The age of Singapore’s evergreen forward Duric, a ripe old age for such a fresh competitor.
What they said
“Generally our team played hard and well as we won the opener. When Singapore took the lead, our players did their best to respond, including hitting the woodwork twice. It was the never-say-die spirit and our great effort that carried us through,” China PR coach Jose Antonio Camacho.
Asia's third qualifying round, matchday 1 results
Group A: China PR 2-1 Singapore, Iraq 0-2 Jordan
Group B: Korea Republic 6-0 Lebanon, United Arab Emirates 2-3 Kuwait
Group C: Japan 1-0 Korea DPR, Tajikistan 0-1 Uzbekistan
Group D: Australia 2-1 Thailand, Oman 0-0 Saudi Arabia
Group E: Iran 3-0 Indonesia, Bahrain 0-0 Qatar