Seven teams in AFC Asian Cup’s Round of 16 to be decided today

Seven teams in AFC Asian Cup’s Round of 16 to be decided today

QLNews
By QLNews

Football fans will be in for a treat on Thursday, with four high-octane matches on offer in two groups of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

A total of seven spots — four from the two groups and three best third-placed teams — in the Round of 16 will be decided after today’s matches.

The Jordanians, who are on top of Group E on goal difference, will look to keep their position when they play Bahrain, who are fighting for survival, at the Khalifa International Stadium.

At the same time, second-placed South Korea will take on Malaysia, who have nothing to lose, at the Al Janoub Stadium. With the top-two slots in the group still up for grabs, the games are expected to be very intense.

Meanwhile, Group F toppers Saudi Arabia will face off against second-placed Thailand, who are yet to concede a goal in the tournament. With thousands of travelling fans expected to attend the match at the Education City Stadium, the atmosphere will be electric.

Oman will hope to win against Kyrgyzstan at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium and secure passage to the knockout round as one of four best third-placed teams.

Here is a look at how the teams are stacked up ahead of Thursday’s crucial ties.

GROUP E
SOUTH KOREA VS MALAYSIA

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium 

Jurgen Klinsmann has warned his South Korea side that there can be no complacency when they take on Malaysia in Group E of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday.

The South Koreans had salvaged a last-gasp point against Jordan in their second game, and it is a lesson Klinsmann hopes his team have learned from with the two-time winners on four points and needing a win against Malaysia to confirm a top-two finish.

“It’s a very tight group. We’re ready for this difficult game against Malaysia, we’ve respect for the team. We watched and scouted them, so we’re looking forward to a very exciting match,” said the 1990 FIFA World Cup winner.

“We got a lesson from Jordan, who were highly motivated and kept fighting. We talked about it. We expect the same motivation from Malaysia, so there’s no way for us to approach this half-heartedly,” he added.

“They made a huge improvement from game one to game two and were unlucky to lose in the final minutes. Mr Kim (Pan-gon, Malaysia head coach) knows these players well, having come through the system. But we’ve to do our job, play hard, keep the tempo high, and hopefully get the three points,” said Klinsmann.

Meanwhile, it will be a special game for Kim as he goes up against his country of birth, but the Malaysia head coach intends to put the personal links aside and use the match as a gauge for the future.

Malaysia will resume their Preliminary Joint Qualification - Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 in March with a double-header against Oman, which could pave the way for them to potentially face teams like South Korea in the future.

“After two games, it’s decided that we can’t go to the Round of 16,” said the 54-year-old.

“It’s tough because that was our target for this tournament. We’re facing a giant in our last game, but it’s a positive challenge for us as we’ve nothing to lose. Depending on the situation, perhaps we may get something. We can use this as a foundation for the future,” he added.

GROUP E
JORDAN VS BAHRAIN

Venue: Khalifa International Stadium
Kick-off: 2:30pm

Hussein Ammouta has warned Jordan not to take Bahrain lightly when they meet in Group E of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar at the Khalifa International Stadium. 

Jordan leads the standings ahead of South Korea on goal difference with Bahrain a point adrift, with the top spot at stake in the decisive round of matches.

Having scored four unanswered goals against Malaysia before going on to hold two-time winners South Korea 2-2, the Moroccan tactician wants his players to be fully focused.

“We hope we can show our concentration and focus. It won’t be easy, and we’ve to be at our highest level in all aspects to confirm what we’ve done previously,” said Ammouta. 

“However, we won’t underestimate our opponents. There’re four players who’re on yellow cards, and others have concerns physically, so maybe we’ll make some changes to the line-up if necessary,” he added.

Jordan have scored more goals in the group stage so far compared to their previous best of five in 2015, and Ammouta wants his team to finish top of the group.

Bahrain head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi is also confident of his team’s chances of another victory following their nail-biting win over Malaysia.

“We’re very optimistic about the match against Jordan, it’s an important game that could help us qualify for the next round. We’re focused on players’ recovery after the Malaysia match, and we’re confident of winning,” said Pizzi.

“It’s a decisive match. We’ve confidence in our team. Jordan have played two very good matches, but I see them as a collective threat rather than an individual ones,” he added.

GROUP F
SAUDI ARABIA VS THAILAND

Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: Education City Stadium

Head coach Roberto Mancini singled out right-back Saud Abdulhamid for praise ahead of Saudi Arabia’s final Group F match against Thailand at Education City Stadium.

The 24-year-old is one of three outfield players who have played all 180 minutes for the Green Falcons so far and his contributions in both the defensive and attacking phases of play are evident by the fact he leads his teammates in crosses with 15 and in duels won with 17.

Mancini’s men have already qualified for the Round of 16 and need a point to secure the top spot in their group, but the Italian tactician is eager to make it three wins from three for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s AFC Asian Cup history.

“First of all, I’d like to thank all our fans who’re in Doha and supporting us from the beginning of the tournament. I hope they stay with us until the end,” said Mancini.

“The best player in terms of fitness in hard work in training is Saud Abdulhamid, his quality is incredible. It’ll be a tough game because Thailand play very good football. We’re okay overall, maybe some problems, but no big ones. We want to try to recover all players and be ready on time,” he added.

Thailand, alongside hosts Qatar, are one of two teams who are yet to concede a goal, and with four points collected from their first two games, they are in pole position to accompany Saudi Arabia into the next round.

But for head coach Masatada Ishii, finding the right balance will be key to getting a result on Thursday.

“Saudi are a good defensive team with a high tempo and high quality of players that we need to be aware of,” said Ishii.

“They’re fast and strong, and their speed of transition is good. It’s an opportunity to show ourselves in front of strong opponents and in front of Thai fans both here and back home,” he added.

“We’ll play a defensive game, and we’ve to continue our consistency defensively and also try to create as many chances as possible,” added the coach.

GROUP F
KYRGYZSTAN VS OMAN

Kick-off: 6:00PM
Venue: Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium

Branko Ivankovic is hopeful that an Omani win over Kyrgyzstan in Group F will be enough to take the West Asian side through to the Round of 16.

Oman scaled new heights in UAE 2019 when they reached the tournament’s knockout stage for the first time and Ivankovic is not ready for the achievement to come to an abrupt end.

One point from their first two matches puts Oman in a precarious position, but a win against Kyrgyzstan could well see them advance as one of the best four third-place finishers.

“If we emerge victorious, we’ll secure either the second or third position depending in the other match. Our focus remains on winning, and the players are committed to giving their best. We’re hoping for a successful outcome,” said the Croat.

“Each game is unique with its own set of circumstances, and this match is no exception. Our style of play remains consistent, and we approach every game with the same determination, whether Saudi Arabia, Thailand, or Kyrgyzstan,” added the coach.

The task faced by Kyrgyzstan is an even bigger one as they currently sit bottom of Group F without a single point but head coach Stefan Tarkovic is not willing to give up without a fight.

“The game against Oman holds significant importance for us, providing an opportunity to showcase our capabilities in what’s expected to be a tough match. We’re prepared to give our best on the field,” said Tarkovic.

“Oman have consistently been a formidable opponent for us, and having faced them twice last year, we’ve thoroughly analysed their gameplay. They demonstrated strong performances in both matches. Oman boasts numerous skilled players with excellent technique, playing compact football, presenting a considerable challenge for us,” he said.

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