- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

XIAN, China (AP) - China advanced to the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup for the first time since 2002 after a 2-0 victory over Qatar on Tuesday.

Second-half goals in Xian from Huang Bowen and Wu Lei were enough to defeat the group leaders and send China through to the last 12 as one of the best four runners-up from the eight groups, as the second round of Asian qualification concluded.

China joins group winners Japan, South Korea, Australia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Qatar and the other three best second-place teams United Arab Emirates, Syria and Iraq in the final stage for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Backed by almost 50,000 fans, China knew that nothing less than a win would keep their hopes alive and Huang’s low shot from the edge of the area after 57 minutes broke the deadlock against Group E winner Qatar.

With two minutes remaining, Wu Lei score seal the win.

“It was a tough game,” said China coach Gao Hongbo. “But the players did what they had to do. We will enjoy this result for a little while before thinking about what comes next.”

A first-half double from Tim Cahill helped Australia to a 5-1 win over Jordan.

Aaron Mooy also scored as Australia went 3-0 up at halftime before Tomas Rogic and Massimo Luongo completed the scoring for the host. Abdallah Deeb notched a late consolation goal in Harry Redknapp’s last match in charge of Jordan.

Former Tottenham manager Redknapp agreed a two-game deal for Jordan’s final qualifiers. It beat Bangladesh 8-0 before Tuesday’s loss.

The result meant Australia finished top of Group B and ended Jordan’s hopes of the final stage.

“They were a much stronger team than we were,” Redknapp told Australian media. “They were sharper. I suppose it’s difficult with the fitness levels with the lads mostly playing in Jordan in the football there, which is not such a high standard and I thought that showed tonight. There was a big gulf in class tonight.”

Shinji Kagawa scored twice as Japan thrashed Syria 5-0 on Tuesday to head Group E.

An own-goal by Syria’s Hamdi Al Masri gave Japan a 1-0 lead at halftime, and Kagawa doubled the advantage.

Keisuke Honda extended the lead to 3-0 with a superb header in the 89th minute and stoppage-time goals by Kagawa and Genki Haraguchi completed the rout.

A last-minute goal by Iain Ramsay saw the Philippines beat North Korea 3-2 in Group H.

Elsewhere, Iran sealed first place in Group D, Iraq made it through to the next stage with a 1-0 win over Vietnam as did both United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after their 1-1 draw in Abu Dhabi.

Two groups of six teams contest the final round of qualifiers beginning in September with the top two from each group automatically qualifying for Russia.

The draw is scheduled to take place on April 12.

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