Asian heavyweights Australia, Japan and South Korea advanced in London Olympic qualifying on Thursday while Bahrain ended Palestine's dream and Iraq stunned neighbor Iran to reach the next stage.
The tiny Gulf state of Oman humbled a 10-man China with three goals in extra time to win 3-1 and advance 4-1 on aggregate — the latest setback for a team that has failed to match its economic might with success on the football pitch.
Elsewhere in the second preliminary round, the UAE drew with North Korea 1-1 to advance 2-1 overall, while Syria blanked Turkmenistan 4-0 to advance 6-2 in total. Qatar eliminated India 4-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw, and Saudi Arabia trounced Vietnam 4-1 for a 6-1 on aggregate.
Uzbekistan downed a 10-man Hong Kong 2-0 to advance 3-0 on aggregate and Malaysia stunned Lebanon 2-1 to advance after the two sides played to a scoreless draw in the first leg.
The next stage comprises of three groups of four teams, with the group winners qualifying for London.
A draw will be held on July 7 and the teams will play a home-and-away format from Sept. 21 to March 14, 2012.
Striker Jason Hoffman scored a hat trick as Australia beat Yemen 4-0 and 7-0 overall. Hoffman finished the series with five goals.
Japan was given a scare when it lost to Kuwait 2-1 but still managed to advance on aggregate 4-3.
Japan's Saki Oriki opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, but Kuwait took over in the second half. Hamad Aman scored four minutes into the restart, and Yousef Nasser Al Salman made it 2-1 from the spot. But the host couldn't find the third goal to force the match into extra time.
South Korea also had a tough time with minnow Jordan, drawing 1-1 but still advancing 4-2 on aggregate. Hamzeh Al Dardour scored the opener four minutes before halftime, but South Korea's Hong Shell equalized in the 70th. Stung, Japan desperately sought a winner, and was denied only by some acrobatic keeping from Abdullah Zu'bi.
Bahrain rallied to defeat Palestine 2-1 in only the second competitive international ever on Palestinian soil. It spurred national pride, and hope for Palestine's first World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan on July 3.
The Palestinians looked set to advance after Khaled Salem gave the hosts the lead in the 44th, but Sayed Dihay Saeed and Ali Khalil scored in the second half to lift Bahrain. Palestine won 1-0 away in the first leg on Sunday for a 2-2 aggregate score, but Bahrain advanced on away goals.
A brace from Iraq's Amjad Radhi helped the 2004 Athens Games semifinalist beat Iran 2-0 and advance on aggregate 2-1.
Ten minutes before the break, Iran keeper Hamed Lak failed to collect a square ball and Radhi slotted it home at the far post. Iran's Arash Afshin and Hamidreza Aliasgari had chances to equalize before halftime but both efforts sailed wide, and it was Radhi who found the net three minutes after the hour to secure victory.
The loss prompted many of the 15,000 spectators in Iran to walk out early, with some calling for the resignation of Ali Kafashian, head of the country's football federation. Iran has not qualified for the Olympics since 1976.
In Oman, China midfielder Wu Xi struck in the 69th but then substitute midfielder Cao Yunding was sent off by for a dangerous tackle on Amer al-Shatri. Oman took advantage, scoring three times in extra time — including a brace from midfielder Hussain al-Hadri, who also scored the lone in the first leg.
In Ashgabat, striker Omar Al Suma scored and set up another goal as Syria hit the target twice in each half to beat Turkmenistan and move on 6-2 on aggregate. The sides played the first-leg draw in Jordan due to the ongoing political unrest in Syria.
In Hanoi, Saudi Arabia came into the second leg with a 2-0 advantage over Vietnam and never was threatened. Nawaf Alabid, Saud Hassan, Ibrahim Jahshan and Abdulrahim Jezawi scored for the Saudis, while only midfielder Le Van Thong managed to score through the visiting defense.
In Kuala Lampur, Malaysia pulled in front of Lebanon in the 9th thanks to Mohd Irfan's half volley, and Wan Zack doubled their lead in the 41st. After Gary Steven picked up his second yellow card, Lebanon took advantage when defender Chadi Atie scored in the 63rd.