GUANGZHOU, China, Nov 8, 2010 (AFP) - Japan and North Korea put China and South Korea to the sword at the Asian Games on Monday, inflicting demoralising defeats as the football tournament kicked into gear.
The Japanese humbled their bitter rivals China 3-0 while 10-man North Korea outlasted neighbours South Korea 1-0 to secure three precious points.
Hosts China are the perennial under-achievers of regional football and they were outplayed before a large crowd at the Tianhe Stadium, although many left early.
The writing was on the wall when Ryohei Yamazaki bundled the ball over the line after 10 minutes, with China immediately put on the back foot.
They held on till half-time before Kensuke Nagai picked up a loose ball in the penalty area and buried it in the net on 58 minutes.
China were stunned and Daisuke Suzuki put the game beyond their reach six minutes later to seal an impressive win for Japan.
"We played the game very intensely. Our priority was to play a great game and cooperate well with each other," said Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka, adding that his team excelled under the pressure of 43,000 Chinese fans.
"As the away team, the players must concentrate and think about how they play. They did this, which led to the first goal."
The defeat leaves China with a big job ahead to qualify from Group A after Malaysia earlier beat Kyrgyzstan 2-1.
The game kicked-off with Japanese and Chinese spectators separated amid a simmering diplomatic row over Japan's arrest of a Chinese trawler captain and a history of bitter rivalry between fans.
But the match passed off peacefully with only a smattering of Japanese in attendance.
North Korea also scored an impressive win at a mostly empty Yuexiu Stadium.
Ri Kwang-Chon got the decisive goal, heading home nine minutes before half-time, with Hong Myung-Bo's men unable to find a reply despite playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes.
It was a disappointing start for South Korea, who played without striker Park Chu-Young, despite him being released by his French team Monaco at the weekend.
North Korean coach Jo Tong-Sop said his under-23 side, which includes a handful of players who featured at the World Cup in South Africa, was brimming with confidence and looking to go all the way here.
"It was a major victory for us because we made a big study of Korea and their tactics," he said.
"Our objectives are simple -- to enhance our experience of international matches. In addition, if we can play well we will try to qualify for the knockout rounds and win those games."
South Korea's Hong, who is looking to steer his team to their first Asian Games title in 24 years, was disappointed but not disheartened.
"Obviously it is very disappointing and unfortunate for us," he said.
"But we still have two more games to play and I believe that when we get our injured players back, we can win the next two games. I am confident we can still reach the final."
The Palestinian territories and Jordan are also in their group and they played out a 0-0 draw.
Only the top two and four of the best third-placed teams from the six groups advance to the round of 16.
Malaysia, meanwhile, got their Games off to the best possible start with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Kyrgyzstan, while Vietnam upset Bahrain 3-1.
Elsewhere, Iran beat Turkmenistan 4-1.
The 24-team Asiad tournament kicked off on Sunday, five days before the formal opening of the 16th Asian Games.