THIMPHU (Bhutan) • Qatar became the first side to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup and also advance to the next stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers following their 3-0 win at Bhutan yesterday.
Mohammed Muntari opened the scoring in the Group C clash in the 22th minute.
Fellow forward Hassan Al Haidos netted a brace with efforts in the 36th and 90th minutes to maintain Qatar's perfect record.
After six matches, they have amassed 18 points and a goal difference of plus 25.
Qatar manager Jose Daniel Carreno, however, insisted that his unbeaten team were still "a long way" from advancing to the 2018 World Cup Finals.
JOB NOT OVER YET
We are on the right track. However, right now, we haven't won anything. When it comes to playing in the World Cup, we are still a long way from it.
QATAR MANAGER JOSE DANIEL CARRENO, Speaking ahead of Qatar's win yesterday
Only four teams in the third round of World Cup qualifying - the two group winners and two runners-up - will earn automatic spots for Russia 2018.
"We are on the right track. However, right now, we haven't won anything," said the Uruguayan ahead of yesterday's win.
"When it comes to playing in the World Cup, we are still a long way from it."
With the World Cup qualifiers also doubling up as Asian Cup qualifiers, however, Qatar are ensured of a place in the 2019 continental tournament.
The winners of the eight Asian qualifying groups, together with the four best runners-up, will all advance to the Asian Cup Finals.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong look set to finish second in Group C after they held China to a goalless draw at home yesterday.
Although they are unlikely to qualify as one of the top four runners-up, they dealt a massive blow to China's hopes of making a second World Cup appearance.
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS (ASIA)
Timor-Leste 0 Saudi Arabia 10
Malaysia 1 UAE 2
Bangladesh 0 Australia 4
Kyrgyzstan 1 Jordan 0
Bhutan 0 Qatar 3
Hong Kong 0 China 0
Guam 0 Iran 6
Turkmenistan 2 Oman 1
Singapore 1 Syria 2
Cambodia 0 Japan 2
Chinese Taipei 0 Iraq 2
Laos 0 South Korea 5
North Korea 2 Bahrain 0
China hit the woodwork twice and forward Yu Dabao appeared to have scored in the 76th minute but the referee ruled that the ball did not cross the line.
Hong Kong have 14 points from seven games, three ahead of China, who have played one game fewer.
The tension before the crunch qualifier between the rivals was palpable at the sold-out, 6,000-seat Mong Kok Stadium.
Hong Kong fans booed the March Of The Volunteers anthem the semi-autonomous territory shares with China yesterday while some turned their backs and held up English-language "boo" signs in a show of defiance following warnings against audible jeering.
Home fans also swore at the visiting Chinese supporters and showed them their middle fingers in a rowdy start to proceedings.
In Dhaka, Tim Cahill scored his first international hat-trick in over a decade as Australia crushed Bangladesh 4-0.
Already Australia's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals before yesterday's Asian Group B clash, he took his career tally to 45 with three first-half strikes.
The 35-year-old opened the scoring after six minutes when he headed in a free kick from the impressive Aaron Mooy. He made it 2-0 after 32 minutes when he volleyed in from close range, then 3-0 when he slotted into an empty net after Mooy broke free.
Mooy also laid on Australia's final goal, just before the half-time break, when the midfielder's free kick into the box was nodded back from Bailey Wright to Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak for the easiest of tap-ins.
The reigning Asian champions then took their foot off the gas against a Bangladesh team ranked 120 places below them.
Cahill's only previous hat-trick for his country was against Fiji in 2004, the same year he made his international debut.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE