Australia became the fourth Asian team to advance to the third stage of World Cup qualifying after beating Nepal 3-0 on Friday.
Goals from Mathew Leckie, Fran Karacic and Martin Boyle in Kuwait City earned Australia Group B honors and a seventh win out of seven matches. The Australians joined Japan, South Korea and Syria in the next round, scheduled to start in September.
“We came here to do a job and haven’t finished yet,” Australia coach Graham Arnold said. “We’ve played seven games, (secured) 21 points, and we’re striving to finish this off with eight wins.”
Only the eight group winners progress along with the four best second-placed teams.
China kept alive its hopes of adding to its sole World Cup appearance in 2002 by beating the Maldives 5-0 in Sharjah. Victory against Group A winner Syria on Tuesday will be enough to send China into the third round.
The team’s form is good. In three games since the second round resumed on May 30, China has taken nine points, scored 14 goals and conceded none. But Syria will be a tougher test.
“We are feeling good,” China coach Li Tie said. “We will have to be at our best (against Syria) but we will be ready.”
Iran thrashed Cambodia 10-0 but will still have to win against Group C leader Iraq — which defeated Hong Kong 1-0 to stay two points clear at the top — on Tuesday to finish first.
There will be another showdown between first and second in Group G. Vietnam stayed two points clear of the United Arab Emirates with a 2-1 win over Malaysia. UAE’s 5-0 victory over Indonesia means victory over Vietnam on Tuesday will be enough for first place.
In Group D, Saudi Arabia scored three goals in the last six minutes to defeat Singapore 3-0 in Riyadh, a result that left the host needing on Tuesday just a point against Uzbekistan, which beat Yemen 1-0, to finish first.
South Korea hosts Lebanon, second in Group H, in Sunday’s sole qualifier.