- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) - Shinji Kagawa scored twice as Japan thrashed Syria 5-0 on Tuesday to finish top of Group E in the final matches of the second Asian qualifying round for the World Cup.

AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda returned after being rested for last week’s 5-0 win over Afghanistan while Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki was handed the captain’s armband on his 100th national team appearance.

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

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.

Japan didn’t concede a goal in the second round and topped the group with 22 points to Syria’s 18.

It had already secured a place in the final round of Asian qualifiers beginning in September.

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

The draw for the final round of Asian qualifiers is scheduled to take place on April 12.

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