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Singapore wrap up Asian Cup qualifying campaign with 6-2 thumping of Myanmar

Singapore wrap up Asian Cup qualifying campaign with 6-2 thumping of Myanmar

Gabriel Quak (22) and Ikhsan Fandi (9) celebrate during Singapore's 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Myanmar at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Jun 14, 2022. (Photo: Facebook/Football Association of Singapore)

SINGAPORE: With only pride to play for in the final match of their 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign on Tuesday (Jun 14), Singapore recorded an emphatic 6-2 victory against Myanmar on the back of Ikhsan Fandi’s first international hat-trick.

Singapore had already dropped out of contention for the finals after narrow losses to Group F hosts Kyrgyzstan (2-1 on Jun 8) and their neighbours Tajikistan (1-0 on Jun 11), but the Lions ensured that they would not return from Central Asia empty-handed after a dominant display against also eliminated Myanmar.

Ikhsan wasted little time at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek as he put Singapore ahead in the ninth minute with a bullet header off a Gabriel Quak cross.

Song Ui-young then put Takayuki Nishigaya’s side 2-0 up seven minutes later with a low shot from well outside the box that sneaked into the Myanmar goal off the post.

Just before half-time, Singapore were 3-0 up, with Quak finishing off a counterattack after a neat one-two with Ikhsan.

Myanmar threatened to stage a comeback at the start of the second half with Win Naing Tun and Aung Kaung Mann scoring either side of Ikhsan’s second goal to make it 4-2. But Ikhsan slammed the door shut in the 69th minute with a clinical left-footed finish off an incisive lofted pass from Faris Ramli.

Hafiz Nor rounded out the scoring with a well-struck volley off a Nur Adam cross in the 89th minute to ensure that Singapore’s adventure in the Kyrgyz capital concluded with three points.

PALESTINE WIN SENDS SIX TEAMS THROUGH

In Group B earlier on Tuesday, Palestine secured their place in the finals with a 4-0 win over the Philippines in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.

With the winners of the six qualifying groups and the five best second-placed teams going through to the finals, Palestine’s win also sealed qualification for six other sides: Hong Kong, India, Thailand and Uzbekistan, as well as Singapore’s group-mates Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The result meant that the second-placed team in Group B could not amass more than four points, which had an impact on the qualification picture in other groups.

Group C leaders Uzbekistan and second-placed Thailand were both on six points and assured of places ahead of their meeting in Namangan, eastern Uzbekistan.

In Group D, Hong Kong and India were also guaranteed spots before they faced off in Kolkata. Hong Kong's qualification will see the former British colony appear at the finals for the first time since the 1968 edition in Iran.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan also progressed from Group F before their clash.

In the quest for the remaining spots, Jordan leads the standings in Group A ahead of Indonesia and Kuwait, with all three sides in action in Kuwait City later on Tuesday.

Bahrain, meanwhile, topped Group E with a 1-0 win over Turkmenistan in Kuala Lumpur.

Group hosts Malaysia qualified as one of the best second-placed teams after beating Bangladesh 4-1. The result saw Malaysia progress through Asian Cup qualifying for the first time in more than 40 years.

The Philippines will need results to go their way if they are to make it to next year’s tournament.

The qualifiers will join 13 teams who have already sealed their 2023 Asian Cup spots including defending champions Qatar, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Australia. China are also set to take part.

The tournament had been due to be played in China before the country's zero-COVID policy saw it withdraw from hosting the event.

The Asian Football Confederation has asked for bids to replace China as hosts, with a decision set to be taken later in the year.

Editor's note: This article has been amended to reflect that while this is the first time that Malaysia has progressed through Asian Cup qualifying in more than 40 years, the country participated in the competition in that period when it co-hosted the event in 2007.

Source: Reuters/CNA/kg(zl)

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