Wei Shihao (R) of China vies with Ali Samooh (L) of Maldives during the match between China and Maldives at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian second round qualification tournament in Male, capital of Maldives, Sept. 10, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
MALE, Sept.10 (Xinhua) -- Elkeson scored twice to help China get off to a winning start as the "Team Dragon" defeated Maldives 5-0 in their Group A tie for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian second round qualification tournament here on Tuesday.
Brazilian-born Elkeson became the first player without Chinese ancestry to play for the national team and capped his debut with two goals, while Wu Xi, Wu Lei and Yang Xu also scored for China, who lead the way in Group A on goal difference as one of four teams on three points.
"I am very satisfied with today's result, taking all three points is just the first step of our campaign for the tournament," said China head coach Marcello Lippi, who already set his eyes on winning China's next match.
China dominated the field well and Wu Xi almost had his side ahead 6 minutes into the match, but only saw his long shot denied by Maldives' goalkeeper Mohamed Faisal.
"It is the beginning of the group matches, no matter how many goals we made, we still need to concentrate on our goals that is to enter into the top 12 teams in Asia," added Lippi.
Wu Xi opened the score for China in the 33rd minute, while Wu Lei, who's playing in Spanish La Liga club Espanyol, extended their lead to 2-0 at the end of the first half.
Maldives found their pace at the beginning of the second half, but Yang Xu's penalty kick in the 64th minute put the result beyond doubt.
The Maldives would finish with 10 men as Abdull Gani conceded a second penalty and got a second yellow card for hauling down substitute Wei Shi Hao, paving the way for Elkeson's show.
"In the past few days, we have been training according to the requirements of the head coach. Therefore, we can play the good tactics in the game and finish the game well," Elkeson said.
30-year-old Brazil-born striker Elkeson, who made his debut in the Chinese national team, made history to become the first footballer who scored in the national team without Chinese ancestry after he scored twice by a penalty in the 83rd minute and nailed the ball home at the end of the game.
"Today we won the game beautifully, then we will try our best to prepare for the next game," added Elkeson.
Also in Group A are Syria, Guam and the Philippines. China will take on Guam and Syria will face Maldives on Oct.10.
The World Cup Asian qualifiers will also serve as the qualifiers for AFC Asian Cup 2023 to be held in China. A total of 40 teams will play across eight groups in the second round Asian qualifiers.
The group winners and four best runners-up, making up a total of 12 teams, will advance to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 finals and the final round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.