AFC Asian Cup 2019: The Qualifiers Reviewed
Dubai: With the draw for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 fast approaching, the-AFC.com kicks off our build up to the prestigious event on May 4 with a look back to how the 24 teams qualified.
The first round of qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 took place more than three years ago in March 2015.
Sunil Chhetri netted twice for India in a 2-0 home victory over Nepal in Guwahati and the South Asians advanced to the next stage by the same scoreline after a scoreless draw in the second leg in Guwahati.
Elsewhere, Yemen overcame Pakistan, while there were also wins for Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste, who all advanced to the second round of qualifying.
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Qualified for AFC Asian Cup: Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq, Syria, United Arab Emirates
The next round of qualifiers also doubled up with the qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 as the rest of the sides from the Asian Football Confederation joined in the action.
A total of eight groups were played over nine months between June 2015 and March 2016, with eight group winners and four best runners-up securing their place in the continental competition and proceeding to the next phase of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
All the big guns advanced, although China scraped through as the fourth best runner-up, while Syria’s strong showing was a sign of things to follow as the war-torn nation would grab global headlines in an even more impressive FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
The remaining four runners-up, eight third-placed teams and four best fourth-placed teams advanced to the final round of AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers. The rest of sides took part in two play-off rounds to decide the as both India and Yemen again came through two-legged matches.
The third and final round of qualifying saw 24 teams divided into six groups, from which the top two teams would join the 12 sides that had already qualified for the continental competition at the beginning of 2019.
Qualified: India, Kyrgyz Republic
Eliminated: Myanmar, Macau
After suffering some disappointing results in 2016, India’s fortunes would improve in 2017 and Sunil Chettri netted the winning goals against Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic as the South Asians set the early pace in Group A.
India would go on to win their next three games and seal a place in the UAE and Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar battled it out for second place and, when the two paired off in their penultimate matches, it was the Central Asians who advanced following a 5-1 victory.
The Kyrgyz then defeated India to move level on points with the group leaders but narrowly missed out on top spot, while Myanmar beat Macau to mean the Macanese finished at the foot of the table with no points.
Qualified: Lebanon, DPR Korea
Eliminated: Hong Kong, Malaysia
Lebanon led the way from the off in Group B following wins over Hong Kong and Malaysia, before four points from two games against DPR Korea then all but secured their passage to the UAE.
The West Asians’ qualification was sealed ahead of their Matchday Five win in Hong Kong, before rounding off their campaign with a home victory over Malaysia, whose disappointing showing meant it was DPR Korea and Hong Kong who battled it out for second place.
And, after a slow start that yielded just two points from three games, it was DPR Korea who came strong by twice defeating Malaysia and then winning 2-0 over Hong Kong to seal qualification.
Qualified: Jordan, Vietnam
Eliminated: Afghanistan, Cambodia
Having been part of three of the last four AFC Asian Cups, Jordan never looked like missing out this time after big home wins over Cambodia and Afghanistan came either side of a draw in Vietnam to set the early pace.
Vietnam, meanwhile, followed back-to-back draws against Afghanistan and the Jordanians with successive wins over Cambodia. The Southeast Asians then secured qualification for the first time since hosting the tournament in 2007 following a scoreless draw with Afghanistan in Hanoi.
Jordan also sealed their passage on Matchday Five with a 1-0 win in Cambodia, before the top two teams played out a 1-1 draw in the final round of fixtures as the West Asians won the group by two points.
Qualified: Oman, Palestine
Eliminated: Maldives, Bhutan
Oman began their campaign with the biggest win in the third round of qualifiers after seeing off Bhutan 14-0, but it was Palestine who led the wat at the midway stage after beating the Omanis 2-1 in Al Ram on Matchday Two.
But the pair were among the first teams to advance from the third round as Palestine defeated and Bhutan beat the Maldives on Matchday Four as they both qualified with two matches to spare.
Palestine were three points ahead by the time they faced off in their final games, but Oman won 1-0 to finish marginally in front of the Palestinians as both ended on an impressive 15 points for six matches.
Qualified: Bahrain, Turkmenistan
Eliminated: Chinese Taipei, Singapore
Group E proved to be a much closer affair but it was Bahrain, after an opening-day draw with Singapore, who were three points clear of Turkmenistan and four ahead of Chinese Taipei at the halfway stage.
Chinese Taipei and Turkmenistan defeated Bahrain and Singapore respectively on Matchday Four to leave three teams fighting for two qualification spots with two games to play.
Bahrain then qualified for a fifth successive tournament by winning 3-0 in Singapore, while Turkmenistan advanced to their second continental campaign by ending Chinese Taipei’s hopes with a 2-1 victory in Balkanabat. The West Asians won the group following a 4-0 victory over the Central Asians in their last game.
Qualified: Philippines, Yemen
Eliminated: Tajikistan, Nepal
Finally, there was always going to be two debutants progressing from Group F and the Nepal, the Philippines, Tajikistan and Yemen all squared off for the right to make debut appearances.
After four games it was a battle between three teams as the Philippines sat two points clear of Yemen and Tajikistan, before scoreless draws between Nepal and the Philippines and Tajikistan and Yemen meant the group went down to the wire.
Tajikistan would have advanced with a win in Manila but lost 2-1 after an added-time Phil Younghusband penalty which confirmed Yemen’s qualification prior to the West Asians’ 2-1 victory over Nepal.
With the 24 teams who will appear at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 confirmed, the draw will take place on May 4 at Dubai’s luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel.
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