AFC Asian Cup 2019: How India can qualify for Round of 16 and who would be their potential opponents

Sharjah: India enter the final round of group stage games of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with work to do to secure a place in the knockout stages for the first time since the format was introduced in the competition. The Blue Tigers have won one and lost a game in UAE so far and sit in second place in Group A ahead of the final round of games.

India face Bahrain in their final group game in Sharjah knowing a point would secure qualification to the Round of 16, but a defeat could leave their hopes of continuing in the competition in the balance.

Sunil Chhetri celebrates after scoring against Thailand.

Sunil Chhetri celebrates after scoring against Thailand.

India don't have to depend on the result of the other game in the group with their fate firmly in their own hands. Here are the different scenarios that could pan out on Monday and how it will affect India’s chances of qualification:

Scenario 1: India Win: Result — India qualify

India will qualify for the Round of 16 with a win over Bahrain in Sharjah and will be assured of a top-two finish in Group A. A victory could also propel the Blue Tigers to the top spot if UAE draw or lose to Thailand in the other game in Al Ain. Wins for Thailand and India would put both the teams joint on top of Group A with six points, but India would edge Thailand based on a better head-to-head record.

However, a win for UAE would mean India would have to settle for second place as the hosts would jump to seven points from their three games with a win. Bahrain would be eliminated from the competition after securing just one point in their three games.

Scenario 2: India Draw: Result — India qualify

The Blue Tigers would still progress to the Round of 16 if they eke out a point from the game against Bahrain irrespective of the result in the UAE-Bahrain game. However, their position in Group A would be dependent on the match in Al Ain.

A draw would end India’s hopes of winning Group A, but they would be able to secure second place with a draw if UAE beat or hold Thailand. However, a Thailand win would relegate India to third place in the Group. But with four points in their kitty, India would qualify for the Round of 16 as one of the four third-place teams as teams in only two group have the potential of finishing in third place with a points tally of four, thus making India’s place in the knockout stage certain.

Bahrain would be eliminated from the competition if they fail to beat India.

Scenario 3: India lose: Result — India’s qualification in balance

India would still have a chance to qualify if they lose to Bahrain, but their fate would depend heavily on results elsewhere. The Blue Tigers would have to hope Thailand lose to UAE in their game to finish in the top three in Group A and stay in contention. If that result goes their way, the margin of defeat would determine the goal difference they finish with. With a defeat, the highest goal difference India would have would be zero and the worse the goal difference gets, the more difficult it will be for India to qualify.

Who will India play if they qualify?

India’s opponents in the Round of 16 would depend on the position in which they finish in Group A. Here are the possibilities depending on India’s probable position should they qualify.

Scenario 1: India finish top and win Group A

If India top Group A, they will face one of the third-placed team from Group C, D or E depending on which of these teams qualify. If the team from Group C qualifies, India will face that team. If there is no third-place team from Group C in the Round of 16, India’s opponents will be either from Group D or E depending on the combination of the third-place teams.

Thus, the winner between Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines will come up against India if they qualify. Otherwise, India could face one of Vietnam, Yemen, Lebanon or North Korea.

India’s Round of 16 game will be played in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City stadium irrespective of their opponents on 21 January 2019.

Scenario 2: India finish second in Group A

If India finish second they will face the second-placed team from Group C which would be one of South Korea or China. China just need a draw in their game against Korea on 16 January to ensure top spot on goal difference, while Korea would win Group C if they beat China in that game at Abu Dhabi’s Al Nahyan stadium.

The Round of 16 clash would then be played on 20 January 2019 at Al Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed stadium.

Scenario 3: India finish third in Group A and qualify

If India qualify as a third-place team from Group A, they will either face the winner of Group B or the winner of Group C. It depends on the combination of the third-place teams. India have a higher probability of facing Jordan, the winner of Group B than coming up against South Korea or China who are the two teams competing for the top spot in Group C.

India will only play the winner of Group C if third-place teams from both Group C and Group D qualify for the Round of 16. Any combination without teams from Group C and D would see India play Jordan on 20 January 2019 at Dubai’s Al-Maktoum stadium.

If India do face either Korea or China, the game will be played on 22 January 2019 at Dubai’s Rashid stadium.

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Updated Date: Jan 14, 2019 08:37:51 IST

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