Soccer-Japan advance in Asian WC qualifying as Osako scores five

·2-min read
World Cup - Asia Qualifiers - Second Round - Group F - Japan v Myanmar

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) -Yuya Osako's five-goal haul helped Japan to a 10-0 rout of Myanmar on Friday that sealed the Samurai Blues' place in the next phase of Asia's qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Japan's victory, their sixth straight in qualifying for next year's finals, means they cannot be knocked off the top of Group F and will take one of the 12 places available in the third round of the continent's qualifying competition.

The game was originally scheduled to be played in March, but was postponed amid a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's military on nationwide anti-coup protests.

As the Myanmar national anthem was played, none of the country's players appeared to sing and several squad members lowered their heads. One player made a three-finger gesture that symbolises the pro-democracy movement's defiance.

About 30 protesters gathered outside the Fukuda Denshi Arena holding placards saying: "Myanmar's soccer team does not represent its citizens."

On the pitch, Japan made light work of Antoine Hey's side, with Takumi Minamino opening the scoring early before Osako went on a spree that gave the home side a comfortable win.

Minamino's deft finish from close range in the eighth minute finished off an incisive move by the Japanese that highlighted the gulf in class between the teams.

Osako headed in the second after Yuto Nagatomo's overlapping run and cross, and the Werder Bremen striker added Japan's third from the penalty spot after Hiroki Sakai had been upended.

The 31-year-old completed his hat-trick before halftime when he stabbed in Nagatomo's downward header.

There was no let-up from Japan in the second half as Osako poked home Minamino's shot four minutes after the restart and Hidemasa Morita added a sixth.

Minamino stroked in his second and Daichi Kamada added Japan's eighth six minutes from time.

A diving header gave Osako his fifth of the night and another headed effort from Ko Itakura in stoppage-time completed the rout.

(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)