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China’s World Cup hopes nosedive after loss to Syria

Syria put a huge dent in China’s hopes of reaching a second World Cup when they pulled off a stunning 1-0 qualifying upset last night in Xian.

Mahmoud al-Mawas’ breakaway goal in the 54th minute settled a gritty game, which left China stranded on one point from their first three games in group A of Asian qualifying.

Seventy-eighth ranked China have ambitions of hosting and even winning a World Cup, but ­Mawas’ strike leaves China’s attempt to make Russia 2018 in jeopardy.

The bustling, bearded forward latched onto a long ball and prodded his first touch past on-rushing goalkeeper Gu Chao before controlling the bouncing ball into the net.

Syria should have made the game safe in the 73rd minute, but Omar Kharbin managed to miss an open goal from Mawas’­ ­inviting cutback.

Syria, despite playing their home games at neutral venues because of the conflict in their country, now climb above China in group A and have four points.

Meanwhile, South Korea got their qualifying campaign back on track with a come-from-behind

3-2 win over Qatar as Son Heung-min maintained his red-hot club form shown for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League by grabbing a second-half winner in Suwon.

After being held to a surprise ­0-0 draw with Syria in their last group A game, the Koreans were determined to get on the board quickly and got off to a great start when Ki Sung-yueng fired home from outside the box with 11 minutes gone.

That lead lasted just five minutes, however, as the Korean ­defender Hong Jeong-ho impe­ded Andres Quintana in the box and Hasan al-Haydos equalised from the penalty spot. Qatar stunned the home crowd for a second time by taking the lead on the stroke of half-time.

The impressive Quintana harried Hong out of possession on the right and after his first attempt at goal was blocked Qatar worked the ball back to him and he flicked it confidently over Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu.

But Ji Dong-won swooped to make it 2-2 in the 56th minute and two minutes later, Son curled home into the far corner of the net.

South Korea coach Uli Stielike said he never lost belief despite falling behind.

“Even when we were 2-1 down I kept encouraging the players that we could do it,” he said. “This is the first comeback win since I took over. It will give the players confidence before we head to Iran.”

In the same group, Iran beat Uzbekistan1-0.

Japan’s Hotaru Yamaguchi scored five minutes into stoppage time at Saitama Stadium to give his side a 2-1 win over Iraq in a group B match.

Agence France-Presse, Reuters