Japan and North Korea put China and South Korea to the sword at the Asian Games yesterday, inflicting demoralizing defeats as the soccer tournament kicked into gear.
The Japanese humbled bitter rivals China 3-0, while 10-man North Korea outlasted neighbors South Korea 1-0 to earn three points.
Hosts China are the perennial under-achievers of regional soccer and they were outplayed before a large crowd at the Tianhe Stadium.
The writing was on the wall when Ryohei Yamazaki bundled the ball over the line after 10 minutes, with China immediately put on the back foot.
They held on until halftime before Kensuke Nagai picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and buried it in the net on 58 minutes.
China were stunned and Daisuke Suzuki put the game beyond their reach six minutes later to seal an impressive win for Japan.
It leaves the hosts with a big job to qualify from Group A after Malaysia beat Kyrgyzstan.
The game kicked off with Japanese and Chinese spectators separated amid a simmering diplomatic row over Japan’s arrest of a Chinese trawler captain and a history of bitter rivalry between fans.
The game though passed off peacefully with only a smattering of Japanese in attendance.
North Korea also scored an impressive win at a mostly empty Yuexiu Stadium.
Ri Kwang-chon got the decisive goal, heading home nine minutes before half time, with Hong Myung-bo’s men unable to reply despite playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes.
It was a disappointing start for South Korea, who played without striker Park Chu-young, despite him being released by his French team Monaco at the weekend.
The Palestinian territories and Jordan are also in their group and they played out a 0-0 draw.
Only the top two and four of the best third-placed teams from the six groups advance to the round of 16.
Malaysia got their Games off to the best possible start with a 2-1 win against Kyrgyzstan, while Vietnam upset Bahrain 3-1.
Elsewhere, Iran beat Turkmenistan 4-1.
The 24-team Asiad tournament kicked off on Sunday, five days before the formal opening of the 16th Asian Games.
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