By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Marcello Lippi’s China, Bert van Marwijk’s United Arab Emirates and Marc Wilmots’ Iran all suffered defeats on Thursday that could have serious ramifications for their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes.
The big-name European coaches endured a torrid time in Asia’s second round of preliminaries with China losing 2-1 to Syria, the UAE beaten 1-0 by Vietnam and Iran falling to a 2-1 defeat against Iraq.
Lippi’s China were undone by a late own goal from defender Zhang Linpeng in Dubai that left the Italian’s team five points behind their opponents at the halfway point in Group A.
Only the winners of each of the eight groups are guaranteed to advance to the next phase of qualifying, with the four best runners-up also progressing.
China are level on seven points in second place with the Philippines, who secured a 2-1 win over the Maldives.
Van Marwijk also endured a miserable evening as his UAE side – who played the last 50 minutes with 10 men after Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent off – lost to Vietnam to drop to third in Group G.
The Vietnamese lead with 10 points with Thailand in second on seven after their 2-1 defeat against Malaysia ensured Tan Cheng Hoe’s team remain in contention for a place in the next phase of the competition.
Wilmots’ Iran lost to old foes Iraq, with Alaa Abbas scoring in injury time to give Srecko Katanec’s side command of Group C, which they lead with 10 points, two clear of Bahrain, who drew 0-0 with Hong Kong. Iran have six points.
There was better news for Paulo Bento as his South Korea team drew 0-0 with Lebanon in Beirut in a match played behind closed doors due to security concerns.
South Korea stay on top of Group H while Turkmenistan remained in the race for a place in the next round with a 3-1 win over North Korea.
Japan maintained their perfect record thanks to goals from Takumi Minamino and Genki Haraguchi, which sealed a 2-0 win for Hajime Moriyasu’s side over Kyrgyzstan to give the Samurai Blue 12 points from four games.
Japan lead Group F from Kyrgyzstan, who are level on six points with third-placed Tajikistan after their 4-3 defeat to Myanmar.
Salem Al Dawsari broke Uzbek hearts in Tashkent with a last-minute lob to give Saudi Arabia a 3-2 win in Group D.
Herve Renard’s Saudi side leapfrog Uzbekistan into first place, two points clear of Vadim Abramov’s team, while in Group E Seminlen Doungel scored in injury time to earn India a 1-1draw with Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Michael Church, editing by Toby Davis)