The Chinese are still a ways from qualifying for Russia 2018 but have a valuable three points in hand.

By Associated Press
March 23, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marcello Lippi earned his biggest win since taking over as coach of China's national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

"Of course, we had to take three points, but it is important for the future development of the players," Lippi said. "We have to keep trying hard in the future."

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

"China started strongly as we knew they would but while we had lots of possession in the second half, we could not get the goal," South Korea coach Uli Stielike said.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

"Whether we won or lost today, the chances of qualification don't look high," Lippi said. "But we got three points against a team second in the group and we will keep trying our best."

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

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Iraq 1, Australia 1

Australia failed to win for the fourth straight Group B match, settling for a 1-1 draw with Iraq.

Matthew Leckie put the Socceroos ahead in Tehran — the temporary home for Iraq because of the security situation in Baghdad — with a first-half header. Ahmed Yaseen then gave Iraq an equalizer from close-range with 14 minutes remaining.

Australia has 10 points in the group while Iraq has four.

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Saudi Arabia 3, Thailand 0

Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Salman Al Muwashar scored a goal each in Bangkok while Tanaboon Kesarat added an own-goal to give Saudi Arabia a 3-0 win over Thailand.

Saudi Arabia leads Group B with 13 points, while Thailand is last with one.

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Syria 1, Uzbekistan 0

Syria won its second match in Group A when Omar Kharbin scored a late penalty to beat Uzbekistan 1-0.

Uzbekistan remains in third place in the group with nine points, while Syria has eight.

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