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South Korea’s dynamic duo dominate 5-0

South Korea’s Son Heung-min celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during the second round of the Asian qualifier group C match for 2026 World Cup between South Korea and Singapore at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov 16, 2023. PHOTO: AP

SEOUL (AP) — Five days after facing each other in the Premier League, Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan teamed up and scored a goal each to help South Korea beat Singapore 5-0 in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

The continent’s top teams joined the Asian qualifying competition in the second round on Thursday. Australia and Japan also started with comfortable wins.

The Australians trounced Bangladesh 7-0 in Melbourne ahead of a trip to Kuwait, where the Palestinian team has elected to play its home game next Tuesday.

The Palestinians held Lebanon to a 0-0 draw on neutral turf in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates in their second-round opener. The game was moved from Lebanon because of the security situation in the region amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Last Saturday, Hwang’s Wolverhampton beat Son’s Tottenham 2-1. Against Singapore, Hwang scored the second goal and Son got the third. Cho Gue-song, Hwang Ui-jo and Lee Kang-in also scored in Seoul as South Korea tries to reach its 11th straight World Cup.

Hwang, who has scored six Premier League goals for Wolves this season, headed in a cross from Cho in the 49th minute. Son, who has scored eight league goals this season, curled in a shot from the edge of the area soon after.

“I’ve practiced quite a bit from that particular spot. I am always confident when I take shots from there,” Son said. “Maybe it’s become a habit. And seeing the flight and speed of the shot, I thought it was going to go in.”

Son appeared to pick up an ankle injury late in the game but he stayed on the field to complete the 90 minutes.

“I am not the only one hurting out there. Everyone plays with some bumps and bruises,” Son said. “Playing for the national team is a tremendous honour … I can’t just give up just because I am hurt.”

The top two teams from each of the nine groups of four in the second round will progress to the third stage.

Australia, which is chasing a seventh World Cup appearance, leads Group I after routing Bangladesh.

Jamie Maclaren scored a second-half hat trick, while Mitchell Duke netted two and Harry Souttar and Brandon Borrello added the others.

“We know that Palestine are going to be right up for it,” Souttar said of Australia’s next match in Kuwait. “We know that they’re going to be playing for a lot more than just football.

“But we’re there to get a result and get a job done. We’ll be professional and be going for the win.”

At Osaka, Ayase Ueda scored three goals in Japan’s 5-0 victory over Myanmar. Daichi Kamada and Ritsu Doan also scored for Japan, which has appeared at the last seven World Cups.

In other matches, China beat Thailand 2-1 as it seeks to return to the World Cup for the first time since making its debut at the tournament in 2002, Iran defeated Hong Kong 4-0, and Qatar routed Afghanistan 8-1 with Almoez Ali scoring four.

Also, Saudi Arabia beat Pakistan 4-0, the United Arab Emirates defeated Nepal 4-0 and India beat Kuwait 1-0.