Dubai: Saudi Arabia beat India 7-1 on Wednesday for its fourth straight victory even as Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well as Japan became the first nations to qualify for next year's Asian Cup finals, joining co-hosts Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Saudi Arabia claimed a place from Group A by defeating India, while Qatar downed Bangladesh 3-0 to assure itself of the Group F title. The four qualifiers completed half of the 16-team field for the July 7-29 event.
The United Arab Emirates drew 0-0 at home with Jordan, keeping it ahead of Oman in Group C and also making sure it cannot be overtaken by the third-place Jordanians with two rounds remaining. Likewise, three-time champion Japan beat Yemen 1-0 on a second-half injury time goal by Kazuki Ganaha, assuring of it at least second place behind Saudi Arabia in Group A.
The top two teams from each of the six qualifying groups advance to the finals along with the co-hosts.
Two-time champion South Korea moved to the verge of qualification, routing Taiwan 8-0, but will have to wait until at least next month to earn its place.
In other games, Iran moved closer to a berth with a 2-0 victory at Syria in Group B; Oman strengthened its bid with a 5-0 victory over Pakistan; Kuwait handed the Australians their first loss in qualifying, 2-0; Group E was left undecided with a 2-2 draw between Iraq and Palestine and 0-0 results between Singapore and China; while Hong Kong and Uzbekistan 0-0 to remain tied for the last berth from Group F.