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Son bags double for South Korea as top sides win in Asian qualifiers

HONG KONG :South Korea's Son Heung-min scored twice and set up the third in a 3-0 win over China as Asia's top sides claimed victories in the second round of qualifying on Tuesday for the 2026 World Cup.

Japan, Australia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all won, while Kuwait and North Korea scored a flurry of goals en route to victories.

Australia and Palestine players stood for a minute's silence ahead of their game, which was played in Kuwait due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Son was in top form as South Korea completed back-to-back wins at the start of their challenge for a place at the 2026 finals.

He put the Koreans in front in the Group C clash in the second phase of Asia's preliminaries when he steered an 11th-minute penalty to the right of Chinese goalkeeper Yan Junling.

He added the second in the 45th minute with a header following Lee Kang-in's corner before turning provider three minutes from time when he drifted in a free kick that Jung Seung-hyun headed past Yan to seal the victory.

The win maintains the Koreans' perfect record after two games in the second round of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup and was China's first defeat after winning against Thailand on Thursday.

The Thais bounced back from that loss to beat Singapore 3-1 with Suphanat Mueanta scoring twice in the second half for Mano Polking's team, who move level with China on three points.

Japan also recorded a second successive win with Ayase Ueda scoring twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Syria in Jeddah that gives Hajime Moriyasu's side a three-point lead over North Korea and the Syrians in Group B.

Jong Il Gwan scored a hat-trick as North Korea picked up their first win of the campaign with a 6-1 thrashing of Myanmar in Yangon having started