TOKYO: Asian champions Japan continued their confident march towards the World Cup Finals by handing 10-man Jordan a record-equalling 6-0 defeat on Friday as rivals Australia struggled under the scorching sun in the Middle East.
The Socceroos escaped Oman with a 0-0 draw after a disjointed display in muggy Muscat where the 35°C temperatures had a big impact.
Perennial World Cup qualifiers South Korea had no such struggles in a later kickoff as they beat Qatar 4-1 at the air-conditioned Al Sadd Stadium in Doha.
Although temperatures in Saitama were far cooler, the high-tempo play of Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan side left Jordan feeling the heat as the Blue Samurai made it two wins from two to top Group B.
CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda registered a hat-trick and Manchester United-bound midfielder Shinji Kagawa was also on target as Japan outclassed a side they came within a minute of losing to last year at the Asian Cup.
Japan need to finish in the top two of the group to guarantee a place in Brazil in 2014 and victory in Australia on Tuesday would put them in pole position to become the first team to qualify for the Finals.
“There is still room for improvement. The next game will be tougher and away to a very good team. But we will be going there to win and to keep this run going,” Kagawa said.
Prince Ali Al Hussein, vice-president of world governing body FIFA and head of the Jordanian Football Association, lavished praise on the Asian champions but he had harsh words for the referees.
Having seen Jordan forward Abdallah Salim controversially sent off in the first half, the prince released a strongly worded statement about the standard of officiating.
“We are in need of a thorough assessment of our refereeing system,” he said.
Jordan next face Australia in September and will have taken confidence from the lack of creativity shown by the Socceroos in the draw in Muscat against world number 97 Oman.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was on song for the Australians, the experienced stopper producing a fantastic save to turn Amad Al Hosni’s header round the post in the second half.
The draw left the Socceroos level in Group B on one point alongside Oman, Iraq and Jordan, five behind Japan.
While chances were few and far between in Muscat, the Koreans carved plenty open in Doha to demonstrate why they are the team to beat in Group A.
Lee Keun-ho scored twice as the visitors calmly overcame an early deficit to outclass their opponents who are attempting to reach the Finals for the first time.
South Korea play at home on Tuesday against Lebanon who picked up their first point of the fourth round stage with a 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan in Beirut. — Reuters
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