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Iraq upset China 2-1 in Asian Cup qualifier

TOKYO, March 1 (Reuters) - Iraq upset China 2-1 in neutral United Arab Emirates on Wednesday to throw their 2007 Asian Cup qualifying group wide open.

Bassim Abbas's 67th-minute free kick settled the Group E clash in Al Ain and helped ease the pain of last week's shock 2-0 defeat in Singapore.

China's coach Zhu Guanghu had promised before the match that there was "no way" his side could lose, but Mahdi Karim gave Iraq the lead after 15 minutes.

China struck back through midfielder Tao Wei early in the second half before Abbas smashed a 25-metre free kick in off the crossbar to stun the Chinese.

Defeat leaves China on three points following their 2-0 victory over Palestine in their opening match and is set to cause more soul-searching after their failure to qualify for this year's World Cup.

Yemen also pulled off a surprise 3-0 victory in India for their first points in Group A.

India were thrashed 6-0 by Asian Cup holders Japan in Yokohama in their opening match last week and were punished for another poor defensive display against Yemen.

SYRIA JOY

A Zyad Chabbo double helped Syria to a 4-0 win victory over Taiwan in Group B, giving the visitors a boost after last week's 2-1 defeat away to South Korea.

Hong Kong posted their first points in Group F with a narrow 1-0 win over Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Qatar host Uzbekistan in a clash of the group's two strongest teams later on Wednesday.

A total of nine Asian Cup qualifiers were being played on Wednesday across the region.

Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Asia's four World Cup representatives were all involved in midweek friendlies after being given permission to postpone their matches to concentrate on their preparations for Germany.

Australia, who qualified for the World Cup representing Oceania but have since joined the Asian Football Confederation, are training in the Netherlands.

All five teams won their opening Asian Cup qualifiers.

The 2007 Asian Cup finals will be co-hosted by Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.