Dom. Feb 25th, 2024

The 2023 Asian Cup is heading into its final matchday of the group stages and, thanks to 16 of its 24 competing nations qualifying for the knockouts, most nations involved still have plenty to play for heading into their final fixtures.

The top two finishers from the six groups all advance automatically to the round of 16, where they will be joined by the four best third-placed finishers.

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Should two teams finish level at the end of their group’s fixtures, their head-to-head meeting will be used as the first tiebreaker, followed by goal difference, goals scored, fair play points and, finally, drawing of lots.

The same criteria applies to ranking the six third-placed finishers from the groups, sans the head-to-head dynamic.

Qualified for the knockouts as group winners: Qatar, Iraq

Qualified for the knockouts, position yet to be determined: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia

Eliminated: Vietnam, Malaysia

Group permutations

Group A

Qatar have already qualified as group winners after victories over Lebanon and Tajikistan.

China needs to beat Qatar to ensure progression. Should they lose or draw, they will need the game between Tajikistan and Lebanon to end without a winner and for their goal difference to not fall below the Tajiks.

Should China draw or lose, Tajikistan and Lebanon will guarantee advancement to the knockout stages with a win.

China, Tajikistan, and Lebanon can all still finish in third place.

Group B

Australia have already secured progression through to the round of 16.

The Socceroos can top the group with either a win or a draw against Uzbekistan, who themselves will guarantee progression with a point, or move above Australia with a win.

Syria can move into second place with a win over India combined with an Uzbek loss to Australia, but will also need to engineer a four-goal swing in goal difference in the process.

India cannot finish in the top two and must win to hold out hope of progressing as one of the best third-place finishers.

Group C

With two wins from two, Iran have already guaranteed their progression to the knockouts and will top the group with a win or draw against the United Arab Emirates.

A win for the UAE would see them top the group, but a loss would give Palestine a faint hope of ensuring advancement with a heavy win over Hong Kong, with their goal difference five adrift of the Emirates.

Hong Kong and Palestine will effectively be playing an elimination game, with both nations realistically needing a win to hold out hope of progressing as a third-place finisher.

Group D

Iraq have already guaranteed their progression as group winners after their stunning victory over Japan combined with Indonesia’s win over Vietnam to give them an insurmountable head-to-head advantage over their rivals.

Japan will advance as group runners-up with a draw or a win over Indonesia, but Merah Putih can snatch it from them if they can pull off what would be one of the greatest footballing upsets in living memory.

Japan and Indonesia can both finish in third place, while Vietnam are locked into fourth and have been eliminated.

Group E

Jordan will progress as group winners should they defeat Bahrain, and South Korea either fails to defeat Malaysia or does so by a margin of victory less than three goals greater than a Jordanian win.

A draw for South Korea will be enough to secure the Taeguk Warriors’ advancement in second place, with the only scenario that sees Jürgen Klinsmann’s side fall to third being a loss to Malaysia and a heavy Bahrain win over Jordan.

Bahrain can guarantee progression with a victory and can even top the group should they win, and South Korea draw or lose.

Jordan, Korea, and Bahrain can all still finish in third place, while Malaysia’s tournament is over after two defeats.

Group F

Saudi Arabia have ensured their progression from the group and will advance as its winner with a point against Thailand.

A Thailand win or draw guarantees their progression, with the former result also enough to see them leapfrog the Saudis and top the group.

Oman can vault the Thais into second position in the group if they can defeat the Kyrgyz Republic and the War Elephants fall to the Saudis, and the two results are of a sufficient margin to reverse the three-goal advantage the Thais have on goal difference.

The Kyrgyz Republic need to beat Oman and have results in other groups go their way to clinch a best third-place finisher berth.

Third-place finishers

With three points apiece to their name already, Bahrain and Indonesia enter the final matchday in the best position of the third-placed teams to advance.

Syria, Tajikistan, Oman, and Palestine are all presently on a point each, with the former three on a goal difference of -1 and the latter on a goal difference of -3.

Of the sides sitting fourth in their groups, only Group A’s Lebanon have a point to their names heading into the final matchday.


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