China advances to Asian Cup last 16, Australia rebounds
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — China and South Korea made it to the knockout round of the Asian Cup on Friday, while defending champion Australia stayed alive by rebounding from a stunning opening defeat.
China secured a spot in the round of 16 with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Philippines in Group C, while South Korea advanced in the same group by defeating Kyrgyzstan 1-0.
Australia put its 1-0 opening loss to Jordan in the past by routing Palestine 3-0 in Group B.
China star forward Wu Lei scored two superb goals — a curling right-footed shot into the top corner in the first half and a volley in the second — against a Philippines squad making its Asian Cup debut.
Yu Dabao added the third with a header a few seconds after entering the match late.
China had opened with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Kyrgyzstan.
Paulo Bento’s South Korea picked up its second straight win with a 41st-minute header by defender Kim Min-jae.
China and South Korea have six points, while Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines have zero but have slim chances of advancing. China and South Korea will fight for the group win on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.
The top two teams in each group and the four best third-place teams advance to the round of 16.
For Australia, Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil scored two minutes apart in the first half and substitute Apostolos Giannou added another in the second at Rashid Stadium.
Jordan, which has already advanced to the next round as the group winner, has six points, three more than the Socceroos. Syria and Palestine have a point each from their opening draw and still have a chance of reaching the next stage.
Australia will try to secure its spot in the last 16 on Tuesday when it faces Syria. Palestine plays Jordan at the same time.
“We’re just getting started, it’s exciting times ahead,” said Chris Ikonomidis, one of the three changes to the starting lineup made by Australia coach Graham Arnold. “It’s a new era under Arnie and we’re really finding our feet now.”
This is Australia’s first tournament squad in a generation without veterans Tim Cahill or Mile Jedinak, who helped the team win the Asian Cup in 2015.