SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Brazilian-born striker Elkeson scored twice on his debut for China in a 5-0 win over the Maldives in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, just a month after becoming a Chinese citizen.
The 30 year-old Elkeson, who has been one of the stars of the Chinese Super League since 2013, is the first player of non-Chinese heritage to be called up to the national team.
Now known as Ai Kesen, the striker scored two late goals after the visitors were already 3-0 up as coach Marcello Lippi’s team got off to a winning start in Group A. China is trying to qualify for a first World Cup since its sole appearance in 2002.
In Hong Kong, however, the city’s months of protests was taken into the sports realm as China’s national anthem was booed loudly by thousands of soccer fans, who also turned their backs when the anthem was played before a qualifier against Iran. The crowd broke out into “Glory to Hong Kong,” a song reflecting their campaign for more democratic freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Iran beat Hong Kong 2-0 in the Group C game.
Asia’s biggest teams also picked up wins in their opening games in the second round of qualification.
Japan reached the second round of the 2018 World Cup and is looking for a seventh successive finals appearance.
A goal in each half gave South Korea a 2-0 win in Turkmenistan in Group H while Australia kicked off its campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory in Kuwait thanks to two first half goals from Mathew Leckie and a strike from Aaron Mooy.
Only the top team from the eight groups and the four best second-placed finishers progress to the next stage.
Source: Fox Sports