Ali Mabkhout controls the ball during the match against Nepal. — X
The UAE began their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign with a thumping 4-0 win over Nepal in Dubai on Thursday night.
Al Hammadi scored the opening goal in the 11th minute of the match before star striker Ali Mabkhout scored two goals in the 36th minute and 44th minute.
Brazil-born Lima scored the fourth goal for the goal in the 46th minute.
The UAE moved up the top position in Group H with the big win.
The top two teams in the group will advance to the next round of the qualifying campaign.
Bahrain and Yemen are the other two teams in the group.
Meanwhile, Asia’s footballing heavyweights made fast starts on Thursday with Australia, Japan and South Korea plundering 17 goals between them in big wins on home soil.
The long road to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico began in earnest in Asia with 36 teams in action Thursday.
Australia, who reached the last 16 at the Qatar 2022 World Cup before bowing out 2-1 to Lionel Messi and eventual champions Argentina, hammered Bangladesh 7-0 in Melbourne.
It was Australia’s biggest victory since 2019 and the perfect present for Graham Arnold, who took charge for the 59th time, a record for a Socceroos coach.
Substitute Jamie Maclaren hit a second-half hat-trick in front of nearly 21,000 and it could have been even worse for Bangladesh but Massimo Luongo missed a late penalty.
Australia are in Group I alongside Palestine and Lebanon, who meet in Sharjah.
In Group B, Ayase Ueda also scored a hat-trick as Japan got their bid to reach an eighth straight World Cup off to an emphatic start with a 5-0 win over Myanmar.
The hosts were missing injured Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma but Feyenoord striker Ueda picked up the slack with a ruthless display of finishing in Osaka.
Daichi Kamada and Ritsu Doan also got on the scoresheet as Japan took early control of a qualifying group that also includes North Korea and Syria.
Not to be outdone, Jurgen Klinsmann went a little way towards silencing the doubters in South Korea as his side strolled to a 5-0 thumping of Singapore in Seoul.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min was among the goal-scorers, and it was a cracker, bending the ball left-footed into the top corner from outside the box.
Hwang Hee-chan of Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier headed home for his second goal in as many matches for his country.
Also in Group C, Wang Shangyuan scored 16 minutes from time to give China a 2-1 win in Thailand and join South Korea at the top of the early standings.
China host South Korea on Tuesday.
In Group F, Vietnam beat the Philippines 2-0 away.
A record eight direct spots and one intercontinental playoff berth are at stake for 2026 for Asian Football Confederation sides, from nine groups of four. (with inputs from AFP)
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