Defending champions South Korea became the first team into the Last 16 of the Asian Games 2023 men’s football event after a 4-0 cruise past Thailand on Thursday.
Hosts China and North Korea also registered second successive wins and both need only a point from their final Asian Games 2023 group games on Sunday to guarantee a place in the knockout phase.
South Korea raced into a 4-0 lead by half-time at the Jinhua Sports Centre stadium via a goal apiece for Hong Hyun-seok, An Jae-jun, Um Wong-san and Lee Jae-ik.
It sparked thoughts that the gold medal winners from Asian Games 2018 might repeat their 9-0 opening game rout of Kuwait on Tuesday, but the Thais were more resolute in the second half.
China had a sizeable crowd at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium rocking by half-time as they also went 4-0 up before the break against Myanmar.
Two goals from Long Tan and one apiece from Dai Wenjun and Wang Zhenao put them into cruise control and though they peppered the Myanmar goal in the second half they, like the South Koreans, could not add to their score.
Earlier on Thursday, India kept their Asian Games 2023 Last 16 hopes alive by edging Bangladesh 1-0 with a goal from 39-year-old striker Sunil Chhetri.
“I feel relief that we gave ourselves a chance to stay in the tournament,” said the veteran.
India lost their opening game 5-1 to China on Tuesday but can still go through from Group A if they beat Myanmar on Sunday.
“It wasn’t easy, playing back-to-back in two days, and in three days we have a game again. There are no excuses though as the other teams are doing the same,” Chhetri added.
“This gives us a chance of going at Myanmar and trying to qualify.”
North Korea, who are playing their first tournament since the Covid pandemic, were pushed hard by Kyrgyzstan but a 20th-minute goal from forward Kim Kuk Jin was enough to give them a 1-0 victory at the Zhejiang Normal University Stadium.
They beat Taiwan 2-0 in their opening match on Tuesday.
North Korea are competing at their first multisport event since the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018.
The Asian Games 2023 officially open on Saturday but some events have begun their preliminary phase, including football.
Asian Games men’s football squads are made up of under-23 players, with three older players allowed, but the age limit has been extended to under-24 for this edition because the games were delayed by a year.