SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former Japan international Keisuke Honda led Cambodia into the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup on Tuesday and a possible meeting with his homeland.
Honda played for Japan at three World Cups before retiring from internationals after the 2018 tournament but has been coaching Cambodia part time, and saw his team advance thanks to a 2-1 away win over Pakistan, which completed a 4-1 aggregate victory.
Asia's first round of qualifying includes the continent's 12 lowest-ranked teams, with six advancing to the second stage which kicks off in September when bigger teams like South Korea, Australia and Japan start their road to Qatar.
Malaysia, Bangladesh, Guam and Mongolia also advanced Tuesday. Malaysia won 5-1 at Timor Leste for a 12-2 aggregate victory, while Bangladesh hung on to its 1-0 first-leg advantage against Laos. Mongolia advanced despite a 2-1 loss at Brunei in the second leg after winning 2-0 at home last week, while Guam came back from a 1-0 loss in Bhutan to win the return game 5-0.
Only five of the six matchups were completed as Macau did not travel to Sri Lanka, citing security concerns following the deadly terrorist attacks in the country on Easter Sunday when three churches in Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in Colombo were targeted in coordinated terrorist suicide bombings which killed over 250 people.
The Football Federation of Sri Lanka said it "fulfilled all security requirements" with FIFA and the AFC ahead of the match. The AFC said it will refer the matter to FIFA.
Macau won the first leg 1-0 and the team's players released a joint statement on Sunday declaring they would be unavailable for future selection if the game did not go ahead.
"We are closer than ever to reach our main goal and we fought for too long to just let it slip between our hands," the statement said. "It's not guaranteed that we will go through to the next stage, but we want to go and fight the 90 minutes left to try and achieve our goal. For Macau, for us and for the future generations this could be an important step."
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