Exciting matches are in place when the final group games of the AFC Asia Cup 2019 gets underway from the 14th of January 2019. With the leading teams in most groups advancing into the round of sixteen with a game to spare, Group A still is wide open with all the four teams having equal chances of booking their place into the knockouts. Let us foresee the possible scenarios that can change the complexion of the group.
Scenario 1 - If UAE and Bahrain win?
If both the West Asian countries secure victory in their final group matches, then both these countries would occupy the top two positions to gain a berth in the round of sixteen. They would push India to the third spot and has ample opportunity to qualify considering the performance of the other countries in the tournament. Thailand, however, would exit the competition finishing in the fourth place.
Position: UAE 7 points, Bahrain 4, India 3, Thailand 3.
Scenario 2 - If both the games end in a draw?
If both the games end in a stalemate, then Emirates go-ahead to top the group with India qualifying as the second-placed team with its victory over Thailand. The War Elephants will also have the chance to qualify after garnering four points as the third best-placed team. Bahrain would remain the team to miss out from Group A.
Position: UAE 5 points, India 4, Thailand 4, Bahrain 2.
Scenario 3 - If India and Thailand win?
In a highly unlikely scenario, if both India and Thailand win their final matches, both the teams would have reserved a place in the last sixteen with six points each. Emirates would need to await the completion of the rest of the group matches to find out if they qualify as the third best-placed team. Bahrain’s competition would end instantaneously after securing a solitary point through their draw against host Emirates.
Position: India 6, Thailand 6, UAE 4 points, Bahrain 1.
Scenario 4 - If UAE win and India and Bahrain settle for a draw?
Emirates would have no trouble as they would top Group A and qualify in into the knockouts. India would secure a draw anytime as they vault themselves into the last sixteen for the first time in the Asian Cup. Thailand would look to advance as the third most superior team in the tournament. Bahrain will exit from the competition after failing to record a single victory.
Position: UAE 7 points, India 4, Thailand 3, Bahrain 2.
Scenario 5 - If UAE and India win?
Emirates would top Group A with two victories in the kitty. India would finish their spectacular performance in the group stages finishing in the second spot. Thailand’s only victory against Bahrain would put them in pole position to qualify as the third best team, and Bahrain would end the tournament in a disappointing note with a solitary point.
Position: UAE 7 points, India 6, Thailand 3, Bahrain 1.
Scenario 6 - If UAE draw and Bahrain wins?
Emirates would top Group A with a slender one-point lead over second-placed Thailand and Bahrain. Thailand would be in the second spot after securing a crucial victory over Bahrain which pushes the latter into the third spot. India would crash out of the tournament if they let Bahrain win and should think about their qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup.
Position: UAE 5 points, Thailand 4, Bahrain 4, India 3.
Scenario 7 - If UAE draw and India wins?
India would defy odds to top Group A and qualify into the knockouts, resulting in a massive boost for the football fans in their country. Emirates would qualify as the second best team from the group. Thailand would be happy to move into the knockouts with a draw against the hosts which will put Bahrain out of the competition with one point from three games.
Position: India 6 points, UAE 5, Thailand 4, Bahrain 1.
Scenario 8 - If Thailand and Bahrain win?
Thailand would emerge out of nowhere to top the group after two victories from their last two matches. Emirates will still go through as the second-place team with a superior goal difference unless they suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of Thailand. Bahrain would hope to qualify as the third best team in the competition while India would exit from the competition after putting in their best performance since their second place finish in their debut Asian Cup in Israel 1964.
Position: Thailand 6 points, UAE 4, Bahrain 4, India 3.
Scenario 9 - If Thailand wins and Bahrain and India draw their group game?
Thailand tops the group and qualifies into the knockouts in style. Emirates would qualify as the second team from group A. India would ride high on confidence after putting in some excellent performance in their group games and advance as the third best team from the competition. The 2019 Asian Cup campaign for Bahrain would end on a disastrous note after not recording a single victory from their group.
Position: Thailand 6 points, UAE 4, India 4, Bahrain 2.
With the above explanation, we can conclude that Bahrain’s hopes of qualifying for the knockouts would only stand a chance if they win against India in their last group game.
India should hope that Emirates coast to victory against Thailand which would pave their way into the knockouts. Either a draw or a victory for Thailand would knock India out.
Thailand’s only chance of not qualifying to the knockouts will happen if both Bahrain and Emirates win their final group matches.
Emirates have already reserved their place into the last sixteen. They can still be pushed to qualify as the third best-placed team if both India and Thailand register victories.
Monday, 14 January 2019: Thailand (118) vs United Arab Emirates (79) - Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 21:30 IST.
Monday, 14 January 2019: India (97) vs Bahrain (113) - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah at 21:30 IST.