China’s remarkably slim hopes of reaching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were all but extinguished in Saitama on Thursday after the lost 2-0 to Japan. A Yuya Osako penalty in the 13th minute, and a header from Junya Ito with an hour gone were enough to settle matters. The win took Japan second in Group B on 16 points, one behind leaders Saudi Arabia, and one ahead of Australia. Japan host the group leaders at Saitama Stadium next Tuesday. Australia remained one point behind Japan in the battle for the two automatic qualifying places for Qatar, after a comfortable 4-0 home win over Vietnam. Defeat leaves China, who were playing their first game under new manager Li Xiaopeng, fifth on five points, nine adrift of the Socceroos, with just three games left to play. Although mathematically possible for China to finish third, they would then face a play-off against their opposite numbers in Group A, with a final play-off against Paraguay the last step before getting to Qatar. And there was nothing to suggest in the team’s performance against Japan there is even a remote possibility of that happening. Needing something out of the game, China failed to muster a single shot on target, and managed just two attempts in 90 minutes. Japan took the lead after China defender Wang Shenchao slid in to block Junya Ito’s cross, but hit the ball with his arm. Osako made no mistake from the penalty spot despite China goalkeeper Yan Junling diving the right way. The hosts pressed home their advantage in the 61st minute when Ito rose to head home substitute Yuta Nakayama’s cross. Chinese fans in Saitama Stadium applauded to encourage players after China's 2:0 defeat to Japan in WCQ. pic.twitter.com/ChxHBleQHN — China Sports Vision 2050 (@CSV2050) January 28, 2022 Australia, with manager Graham Arnold absent after testing positive for Covid-19, made light work of Vietnam in Melbourne. Jamie Maclaren opened the scoring in the 30th minute before Tom Rogic notched a second in first-half injury time. Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree added two more after the break to wrap up the win for the home side. “Very rewarding, kind of lost for words to be honest,” Goodwin said. “For me personally, it’s a great moment [to score] but there’s a lot of emotion in it. It's a very rewarding feeling for me and my family as well. All credit to Vietnam. The second half they came out and created some chances.” With Arnold out sick, former Manchester United assistant manager Rene Meulensteen took charge of Australia at AAMI Park and said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with the result. “We knew it was going to be a challenge but [I was] pleased with the quality we showed at times. Most importantly [we got] the three points. We knew we needed to keep going. “We were on constant touch with [Graham Arnold]. I know he would have been sat there and enjoyed the performance.” Whipping boys Vietnam stayed bottom of the group with no points from seven games.