DOHA (Dispatches) - Syria joined Japan in the third round of World Cup qualifying from Asia after a first-half double by Mardak Mardikian helped them beat Guam 3-0 and confirm their top position in Group A on Monday.
Syria’s seventh win in as many matches ensured they would be among the 12 teams competing in the next phase of qualifying for four confirmed spots from Asia in next year’s tournament in Qatar. A fifth team from the continent could make the cut via an intercontinental play-off.
Mardikian took advantage of a poor headed clearance by Alexander Lee to slam the ball past Guam goalkeeper Dallas Jaye in the sixth minute to put the Syrians ahead at the Sharjah Stadium.
The 29-year-old striker doubled his side’s lead just three minutes later with a spectacular flying volley from a Khaled Kerdagli cross that found the top corner of Jaye’s net.
Mahmoud al-Mawas, who scored a hat-trick against the Maldives on Friday, then made it 3-0 late in the match as it was mission accomplished for Nabil Maloul’s men.
Also in Group A, China beat the Philippines 2-0 for their fourth win in six matches but with 13 points they trail Syria by eight and can only hope to make the grade as one of the four best second-placed teams.
In Group C, Iraq thrashed Cambodia 4-1 to go top with 14 points from six matches, while Iran hammered Bahrain 3-0 to climb to second, two behind the leaders.
Mohannad Ali, Bashar Rasan and Ali Adnan struck in the first half for Iraq and Safaa Hadi finished off proceedings with a goal in second-half stoppage time.
Iran were served well by Sardar Azmoun’s second-half brace with Mehdi Taremi completing the rout with a late strike.
The UAE kept their chances alive in Group G with a convincing 3-1 victory over Thailand in Dubai.
The Emiratis, however, trail leaders Vietnam who saw off Indonesia 4-0 to take their tally to 14.