Favourites progress as stars shine

Nepalese forward Anil Gurung (2R) celebrates with teammates

Eight Asian teams emerged as the aggregate victors after this weekend's second legs of the continent's preliminary qualifying round for 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, progressing to the next stage where they will join the other 22 higher-ranked sides.

Boosted by their opening triumphs four days earlier, Vietnam and Nepal continued their dominance in the returns as they rounded off their opening-round campaign with unblemished records. Bangladesh and Palestine, meanwhile, also made it through courtesy of their first-leg wins despite drawing against Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively.

But elsewhere there were surprises. Both Laos and Myanmar overcame deficits to advance at the expense of Cambodia and Mongolia respectively, while Chinese Taipei came close to stunning Malaysia. JoinFIFA.comas we take a closer look at these thrilling and enthralling encounters.

The game
Philippines 4-0 Sri Lanka
History was made as Philippines stormed into the second round for the first time. Cheered on by their vociferous home crowd, coach Michael Weiss' Azkals dominated the re-match with Sri Lanka from the outset. Shining the brightest, however, was their ace-striker Phil Younghusband, who score two and set up another as his side powered through.

The former Chelsea reserve player first teed up Emelio Caligdong to open the scoring after 19 minutes, before he was on target to set up a 2-0 first-half lead. After Angel Guirado made it 3-0 shortly after the interval, Younghusband struck a penalty on the hour-mark to seal the 4-0 win. Philippines went through 5-1 on aggregate and awaiting them next are Kuwait, with whom they have to battle it out over two legs on 23 and 28 of July for a place in the third round.
The surprise
Laos 6-2 Cambodia
Lamnao Singto netted a brace as hosts Laos bounced back to defeat Cambodia 6-2, a result which set them up against China in the second phase. 4-2 losers in the previous match, Laos halved the deficit on 19 minutes through Singto, before Khampheng Sayavutthi levelled the aggregate scoreline on half-hour mark.

It became a seesaw battle thereafter, with Cambodia twice coming from behind to draw level and force extra time with the scores tied at 6-6 across both legs. The balance, however, was tilted in the hosts’ favour when Visay Phaphovanin put them ahead after 94 minutes, before Sysomvang Kanlaya settled the contest with a 112th-minute spot-kick, sealing an astonishing 8-6 aggregate win.

The other head-line grabbers
Also staging a powerful comeback were Myanmar, who overturned their 1-0 previous loss with a 2-0 home triumph over Mongolia. Two second-half goals from Soe Pai and Mai Aih Naing ensured the progress of the South Asians, who are pitted against Oman in the next stage.

Such a happy ending was not, however, something that Chinese Taipei could count on. Playing in front of their adoring fans, the islanders twice came from behind to defeat Malaysia 3-2 in the return, with the result leaving both sides level on aggregate at 4-4. However, it was the visitors that advanced to meet Singapore, courtesy of two away goals by Mohd Aidil Radzak and Safiq Rahim.

Despite only managing a narrow 2-1 win at home over Timor-Leste, Nepal finally stamped their authorities in the return, firing five unanswered goal past the islanders to book their passage through 7-1 on aggregate. The re-match was the first of the schedule, a day ahead of others, on Saturday and thus made Nepal the first to progress to the second round, where they will meet Jordan.

Elsewhere, Pakistan had no answer to Bangladesh's 3-0 first-leg win as they were held to a goalless draw in the return. As a reward for their aggregate victory, the latter will meet Lebanon in the next-stage competition. Palestine, too, capitalised on their previous 2-0 win to progress despite being held to a 1-1 tie by Afghanistan. But in the next round they will enter uncharted territory in the shape of Thailand.

The player
Vietnam striker Le Cong Vinh set the continental stage ablaze, striking eight times over two legs to top the qualifying scoring chart. Having bagged a hat-trick in their opening 6-0 home win, the three-time Vietnamese player of the year went on to add five as his side won 7-1 in the return.

The stats
9 -Laos’ 6-2 victory over Cambodia has not only earned them progression but has also brought their nine-match winless streak in FIFA World Cup qualification to an end.

What they said
"After we broke the deadlock, the team fully demonstrated their power and potential thereafter. We have quality players and the game showed what they are capable of. Our showing makes us confident for the Kuwait match," Philippines coach Michael Weiss

Asian Zone qualifying, first round, second-leg results:
3 July
Chinese Taipei 3-2 Malaysia
Pakistan 0-0 Bangladesh
Laos 6-2 Cambodia
Philippines 4-0 Sri Lanka
Palestine 1-1 Afghanistan
Macau 1-7 Vietnam
Timor-Leste 0-5 Nepal
Myanmar 2-0 Mongolia

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