In a few days, the Asian Cup group stage will over and we will all wait to see the big clashes of the knockout stage. The third matchday will be crucial for most of the teams, as they will learn their destiny at the next round.
Ten teams already qualified for the next stage, but there are still open questions before the matches. First, teams will play against each other in order to decide who will finish at the top of the group. Second, the third-placed teams will hope to finish as one of the best four teams that will join the round of 16.
So here is what your team needs to do in order to be one of the best 16 Asian teams.
The host nation, UAE, has already qualified for the next round, while India, Thailand and Bahrain will play for the second spot. Among all groups, it might be the most complicated one.
India is in the best position right now, as all they need to do is to defeat Bahrain. In case of a draw, India will hope for an Emirati win or draw. If the match of India and Bahrain will be tied and Thailand will defeat the UAE, Thailand will join them and India will finish third.
If Bahrain will win, things will be a bit complicated but not too much. Four points would be enough for qualifying even from the third place, so if Thailand would not be defeated against the UAE, all three teams will qualify. If Bahrain and UAE will win, they will qualify together and India will need to pray for some help from the other groups.
In any case, there is a big difference between finishing first and second in this group. The group winner will face one of the third-placed teams, while the runner-ups will play against Group C runner-ups, South Korea or China.
This group has the only team that are already in a locked place in the bracket, group winners, Jordan. Australia, Palestine and Syria will play each other for the second place.
The Asian Cup title holders, Australia, don't have a very difficult mission. Win or draw against Syria will be enough for them to qualify, no matter what will happen between Jordan and Palestine.
On the other hand, Syria will qualify if they will win. If Palestine wouldn't win against Jordan, they will do it from the second place. If Palestine will win, the goal difference will decide which team will finish second. Currently, Syria's goal difference is better than the Palestinian Goal difference (-2 against -3).
For Palestine, the only scenario that will lead them to the next stage will be defeating Jordan.
The team that will finish second in this group will play against Group F runner-ups, Japan or Uzbekistan.
Regarding the next four groups, the explanations will be easier. In each of these groups the first two teams already qualified, while the bottom two will try to finish third.
China and South Korea will play for the first place. In case of a draw, China will be first due to a better goal difference. The first place will enjoy an easy opponent at the round of 16, as they will be placed against one of the third-placed teams. The runner-ups will play against Group A runner-ups, which can be Thailand, India or even the UAE.
The race for third place will be between Kyrgyzstan and The Philippines. The winner will finish third and have good chances to qualify, as both of the teams' goal differences are not bad enough. If one of them will qualify, they will probably face the Group A winners, except for one combination that will make them play against Jordan.
The same case of two already qualified teams, this time we are with the old rivalry of Iran and Iraq.
Both teams need to win in order to finish at the first place and to play against third-placed team at the next round. In case of a draw, Iran will use its better goal difference in order to keep their top spot. The second place will play against Group E winners, Qatar or Saudi Arabia.
Vietnam are clear favorites to defeat Yemen, so they have an important task – to win in the highest margin they can in order to improve their goal difference. If they will qualify to the next round they will play against Jordan or Group A winners. If the match will end in a draw or even if Yemen will win, the chances to qualify from this group will decrease.
The first two places are locked by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and they both will want to show who controls the Gulf area.
At the last World Cup, England and Belgium tried to avoid a bad draw for both in the knockout stage. Unfortunately, Qatar and Saudi Arabia don't have too much luck in this case. As mentioned before, the group winner will face Group D runner-ups, Iran or Iraq. The runner-ups wouldn't get a better draw, as they will face Group F winners, Japan or Uzbekistan. Qatar need at least a draw in order to finish first, Saudi Arabia most to defeat them if they want to win the group.
The teams fighting for third place are in a bad situation, as both Lebanon and North Korea are maintaining their negative goal difference. If Lebanon can produce a massive victory against them, as they done in the Asian Cup qualifiers, they will have a chance to qualify. If North Korea will do so, both teams will say goodbye to the tournament.
The last group is also separated by two different match-ups.
The first place will be decided between Uzbekistan and Japan. As Uzbekistan have a better goal difference, all they need to do is a draw against Japan. The Japanese will need to fight and win in order to get the better the spot. It's not clear which spot is better, as the winners will face Group E runner-ups, Qatar or Saudi Arabia, while the runner-ups will face Group B runner-ups, which might by Australia.
Oman and Turkmenistan will play for the third place and both can qualify in case of a win. Considering their goal difference and the fact that their match will be at the end of the round, they will also know what result they need in order to qualify. Qualifying from the third place in Group F will make a round of 16 match against either Group C winners, China or South Korea, or Group D winners, Iran or Iraq.