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Japan kicks off 2022 World Cup qualifying with win

The Associated Press

Japan’s Ito Junya, left, vies for the ball with Myanmar’s Kaung Sithu, center, and Zaw Lin during their World Cup 2022 Asian qualifying soccer match on Tuesday in Yangon.

The Associated PressSEOUL (AP) — Japan started on the road to the 2022 World Cup by beating Myanmar 2-0 in Yangon on Tuesday.

A spectacular strike from outside the area by Shoya Nakajima after 16 minutes put Japan in control. Takumi Minamino ensured Japan led 2-0 by halftime.

Japan reached the second round of the 2018 World Cup and is looking for a seventh successive finals appearance.

It moved into second place in Group F of Asia qualifying, three points behind leader Tajikistan. The Central Asian team, yet to appear at a World Cup, recorded a second successive win, defeating Mongolia 1-0.

In other action, Brazilian-born striker Elkeson scored twice on his debut for China in a 5-0 win over the Maldives, just a month after becoming a Chinese citizen.

The 30-year-old Elkeson, who has been one of the stars of the Chinese Super League since 2013, is the first player of non-Chinese heritage to be called up to the national team.

Now known as Ai Kesen, the striker scored two late goals after the visitors were already 3-0 up as coach Marcello Lippi’s team got off to a winning start in Group A. China is trying to qualify for a first World Cup since its sole appearance in 2002.

In Hong Kong, Iran beat the host side 2-0 in the Group C in a match preceded by the Chinese national anthem being booed loudly by thousands of fans, who also turned their backs when the anthem was played.

Two other top Asian teams picked up victories in their opening games in the second round of qualification, with South Korea and Australia comfortably winning away games.

A goal in each half gave South Korea a 2-0 win in Turkmenistan in Group H, which North Korea leads after wins at home against Lebanon and away in Sri Lanka. The South Koreans are aiming to qualify for a 10th consecutive World Cup.

Australia kicked off its campaign with a 3-0 victory in Kuwait in Group B after two first-half goals from Mathew Leckie and a strike from Aaron Mooy.

Saudi Arabia opened with a 2-2 draw against Yemen in Bahrain in its Group D opener.

Only the top team from the eight groups and the four best second-placed finishers progress to the next stage.Speech

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