BANGKOK, Oct 28 (Reuters) China thrashed Myanmar 4-0 today to reach the third round of 2010 World Cup qualifying and join Asia's top-ranked teams.
The Chinese, who are hoping to qualify for the finals for a second time after appearing in the 2002 tournament, scored all four of their goals in the first half to condemn Myanmar to yet another early World Cup exit.
Pakistan provided the only surprise of the day when they held Asian champions Iraq, who were at full strength, to a goalless draw having lost their home leg 7-0.
Pakistan were eliminated along with most of the region's no-hopers, who must now wait another four years for their next shot at reaching the finals.
Yemen came close to losing their 3-0 advantage, progressing despite going down 2-0 to the Maldives, and Gulf champions United Arab Emirates put a damper on Vietnam's impressive season, ousting them from the competition with a 3-0 win.
Uzbekistan were unable to match their 9-0 first-leg rout of Taiwan but scored two late goals in Taipei to win 2-0 and guarantee their place in round three.
Oman beat Nepal 2-0 (4-0 aggregate) in Kathmandu and Southeast Asian champions Singapore qualified easily after a 3-0 win at home to Palestine, taking the two-leg score to 7-0.
Still looking to make amends for a disappointing Asian Cup, China went all out from the start and took the lead through Wu Wei'an in the 13th minute.
Jian Liu scored the second a minute later, Zheng Jin made it three on 35 minutes and Zhang Yaokun rounded off the victory when he converted a 39th-minute penalty.
NEUTRAL GROUND The match was played on neutral ground in Kuala Lumpur because of last month's violent crackdown by Myanmar's military rulers on protesting Buddhist monks.
China's regional ranking of 10th allows them to leapfrog the second round into the third, where the top five countries -- Japan, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and newcomers Australia -- will join the competition.
Of today's 19 qualifiers, the top 11 ranked teams go through to the first group phase in round three. The remaining eight winners must play another home and away match in round two.
After a shaky first-leg draw with lowly Bangladesh, Tajikistan hit five past the visitors in the return leg, including a Numondzhon Khakimov hat-trick, to go through along with Hong Kong, who trounced strugglers East Timor 8-1.
Hong Kong's Siu Ki Chan scored three times to ensure there was no repeat of last week's embarrassing first-leg tussle with the Timorese, who have never won an international match.
Turkmenistan ended Cambodia's hopes of going beyond the opening round for the first time with a 4-1 win (5-1 aggregate) and Bahrain progressed after a goalless draw with Malaysia, having won their home leg 4-1.
Thailand and Syria have already gone through to the next stage while Kuwait and one-time World Cup qualifiers Indonesia were given byes.
Asia has four automatic berths for the 32-team World Cup finals in South Africa, with a potential fifth on offer via a playoff with Oceania's top side.
REUTERS GT RAI2316