Japan and Saudi Arabia got their 2022 World Cup campaigns back on track with convincing wins over Mongolia and Palestine respectively in the second round of the Asian group qualifiers.
Japan, looking to qualify for their seventh World Cup in a row, ran riot against Mongolia and thrashed them 14-0 to record their biggest-ever win in World Cup qualifying.
The Blue Samurai had not played a qualifier since November 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they showed no signs of rustiness and by the end of the first half were already five goals up.
Picking up from their 3-0 friendly win over South Korea last week, Hajime Moriyasu’s players added another nine more goals in the second half to currently lead the Group F standings with 15 points.
A victory over Myanmar on June 3 will seal first place in the group and a spot in the third round of Asian qualifying.
Takumi Minamino, Yuya Osako, Daichi Kamada and Hidemasa Morita all scored in the first half, along with an own-goal from Mongolia defender Khash-Erdene Tuyaa.
Osako ended up with a hat trick, while Sho Inagaki, Junya Ito and Kyogo Furuhashi scored two goals each. Takuma Asano also scored.
Japan coach Moriyasu said a big winning margin against Mongolia wasn’t the priority.
“Rather than focusing on their opponents, our players concentrated on what they wanted to achieve for themselves,” Moriysasu said in comments reported by the Kyodo news agency. “I was able to try some different formations and expand our options.”
Japan captain chipped in. “It’s good that lots of different players scored and that the players who should score, such as Osako, did score.
“That was the biggest thing to take from tonight. We kept going to the end without letting up, and we scored quite a few in the dying minutes.”
The Japanese warmed up with a 3-0 win last week in a friendly against South Korea, organized after their scheduled match against Myanmar was postponed.
Tuesday’s game had been scheduled to take place in Mongolia but was changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Asian Football Confederation decided earlier this month to play all remaining Group F matches in Japan.
Saudi Arabia moved to the top of Group D, above Uzbekistan, after beating Palestine 5-0 in the only other qualifying match from the Asian region.
Yasser Al-Shahrani and Fahad Al-Muwallad scored late in the first half to give the hosts the lead in Riyadh. Two goals from Saleh Al-Shehri early in the second and a late penalty from Salem Al-Dawsari completed the rout.