South Korea finally flex muscles as Japan claim advantage over Australia

Son Heung-min notched his third goal in the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup to help South Korea to a 3-0 win over Iraq on Tuesday. Asian Football Confederation

As the third round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup passed its halfway mark on Tuesday, Match Day 6 proved to be potentially pivotal as the continent's hopefuls continued their quest to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Standings stayed steady atop Group A as Iran and South Korea both cruised to victory. Group B, however, saw significant movement at the top with Japan moving into second place after a 1-0 win over Oman and after Australia managed just a 1-1 draw against China PR.

Here are the key takeaways from the final action for 2021 in the Asian qualifiers.

South Korea finally deliver statement

Despite South Korea's impressive haul of 11 points from a possible 15 before Tuesday, there were still questions about their ability to dominate games. Their three previous wins over Lebanon, Syria and United Arab Emirates all came by a single-goal margin.

The Taegeuk Warriors finally showed what they are capable off with a 3-0 statement win over Iraq as their big names kicked into gear. Mainz playmaker Lee Jae-sung broke the deadlock with a fine first-time finish while Tottenham ace Son Heung-min capped off another dazzling display by adding a second from the spot. There was even time for 22-year-old starlet Jeong Woo-yeong -- currently on the books of Bundesliga outfit Freiburg -- to score his first international goal with his side's third of the evening.

Iran boast impressive depth in their ranks

Iran continued their unbeaten run in the campaign with a fifth win in six matches as they comfortably beat Syria 3-0. The most impressive aspect of their victory was coach Dragan Skocic's deep bench.

Already without star striker Mehdi Taremi, who was dropped following a reported dispute with team officials, Skocic was also without Feyenoord man Alireza Jahanbakhsh through suspension and then decided to rest first-choice goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Omid Noorafkan came in at left-back and hardly put a foot wrong, allowing the versatile Vahid Amiri to fill Jahanbakhsh's void on the wing and lay on the assist for Sardar Azmoun's opener with a visionary 30-yard through-pass. Skocic also had the luxury of drafting in the experienced Ehsan Hajsafi -- with over 100 caps to his name -- as a steadying influence in midfield.

China salvage pride against Australia but still overly reliant on Wu

After some disappointing displays in the first half of the campaign, with their only win coming against bottom side Vietnam, China PR finally earned back some credit with a 1-1 draw against Australia.

Still, they continue to have an unhealthy reliance on main man Wu Lei for goals. Although his 70th-minute equaliser against the Socceroos came via a penalty, the Espanyol attacker looked the likeliest avenue of a Chinese goal throughout the 90 minutes.

Having opted to go down the naturalisation route in a bid to bolster the national team stocks, China are yet to really reap the rewards of handing citizenship to the Brazil-born attacking trio of Elkeson, Alan Carvalho and Aloisio, who have combined for a solitary goal so far in the third round of qualifiers.

An overhaul for Japan could be needed sooner rather than later

Victory over Oman -- coupled with Australia's draw against China -- may have allowed Japan to move into the second spot in Group B. While they currently hold one of the two automatic qualifying berths, Tuesday's win only papers over the cracks at one of Asia's traditional powerhouses.

The Samurai Blue again lacked any real invention against a team they would have been expected to see off with relative ease. They only showed urgency after more famous names like Takumi Minamino, Gaku Shibasaki and Yuto Nagatomo were replaced by the less-experienced but arguably more eager-to-impress Kaoru Mitoma, Kyogo Furuhashi and Yuta Nakayama.

With the World Cup just a year away and Japan expected to be there competing, making wholesale changes is certainly not advisable and coach Hajime Moriyasu still needs to call upon his seasoned campaigners, but this is certainly a Japan outfit crying out for new life.