China and South Korea reached the Asian Cup last 16 knockout round on Friday with wins over the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan respectively as holders Australia bounced back to claim their first win of the tournament.
Marcello Lippi’s China side negotiated a potentially tricky clash with the Azkals thanks to a pair of high quality strikes from Wu Lei and a late header from Yu Dabao to seal a 3-0 win and guarantee a top two finish in Group C.
“The victory is, of course, very important, however the team’s performance is just as important,” said Lippi.
“I hope we can continue in this manner because once you have confidence in yourselves you know you can play against any opponent in Asia.”
Wu put China in front five minutes before the break with an instinctive effort from the edge of the area and doubled the lead in the 66th when he volleyed home Hao Junmin’s free kick.
Yu then nodded the ball over the line with his first touch after coming off the bench 10 minutes from time when the Philippines failed to clear a corner.
The Koreans, meanwhile, had defender Kim Min-jae to thank for their 1-0 victory over Kyrgyzstan which secures their place in the last 16 of the competition.
The Jeonbuk Motors centre half put Paulo Bento’s team in front four minutes before halftime when he headed Hong Chul’s corner through the legs of 21-year-old debutant goalkeeper Kutman Kadyrbekov.
South Korea take on China in their final group game on Jan. 16 and, with both nations through to the next round, they will be playing to determine who wins the group.
Earlier on Friday, Australia eased to a 3-0 win over Palestine having lost their opening game of the tournament in Group B to Jordan last weekend.
Jamie Maclaren put the Socceroos in front with a deft header off Tom Rogic’s lofted pass after 18 minutes and Awer Mabil doubled the advantage from close range two minutes later.
Substitute Apostolos Giannou added the third in the final minute as Graham Arnold’s team ensured they go into next week’s meeting with Syria knowing a win will clinch a place in the knockout rounds.
Australia are second with three points, three points behind Jordan - who have already reached the last 16 - with Syria and Palestine on a point apiece with one game left. The top two in each section qualify plus the four best third-placed teams.
China and South Korea progress as Australia bounce back