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2018 World Cup qualifiers: Asian giants China upset by Uzbekistan

Asian Powerhouses China And South Korea's 2018 World Cup Qualification Campaigns Suffered A Big Blow As They Were Handed Losses By Uzbekistan And Iran Respectively.

PTI | Updated on: 12 Oct 2016, 01:50:32 PM
2018 World Cup Qualification - File Photo

New Delhi:

Asian powerhouses China and South Korea's 2018 World Cup qualification campaigns suffered a big blow as they were handed losses by Uzbekistan and Iran respectively.

The Chinese were outclassed 2-0 by Uzbekistan in Tashkent with the Central Asians scoring twice in the second half through Marat Bikmaev and Otabek Shukurov to leave China at the bottom of the pile on just one point and almost certainly facing more World Cup heartbreak.

The Uzbeks temporarily topped the group with nine points from four matches but were pushed down to second place later on the day when Iran pulled off a 1-0 win over World Cup regulars South Korea in Tehran to take their tally to 10.

The Chinese, who have invested heavily in football and are eyeing a bid for the 2030 World Cup, have only qualified for the tournament proper in 2002 and needed to raise their game sharply in Tashkent to revive their flagging chances.

Uzbekistan, who have never qualified for the World Cup, opened their account through Bikmaev in the 50th minute, the Lokomotiv Tashkent forward blasting the ball home after playmaker Eldor Shomurodov split open the Chinese defence with a brilliant pass.

The hosts were dictating the game and came close toscoring again moments later, but Igor Sergeev's shot crashedback off the post. But with five minutes remaining Uzbekistan wrapped up a deserved three points after substitute Shukurov'sspeculative effort took a lucky deflection off Zhang Chengdongand rolled into the net.

An hour or so later, Iran pulled off a surprise win inunusual circumstances in Tehran over South Korea to jump tothe top of the group. Iranian fans faced a tricky balancing act because thegame came on a religious holiday in which they are banned from expressing joy.     

The game, broadcast live on state television, showed asolemn black stadium packed with subdued spectators wearing black.Back on the pitch, Iran's defensive-minded approach inthe qualifiers has worked and they have now not conceded agoal in four matches at this group stage.

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First Published : 12 Oct 2016, 01:37:00 PM