AFC Asian Cup 2023 continues to be a 12 months away. However the 24-team lineup will likely be finalised within the coming week with the third and ultimate spherical of qualifiers.
13 contenders are already via by advantage of their achievements within the earlier spherical, which noticed them march on within the FIFA World Cup part of the joint qualifiers — Japan, Syria, Qatar, South Korea, Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China PR, Iraq, Oman, Vietnam and Lebanon.
11 extra groups will advance over the course of the subsequent seven days with six group winners together with the 5 best-placed runners-up qualifying.
Though the event was initially to be hosted in China, a brand new venue will now must be chosen following their withdrawal as a result of COVID-19 state of affairs within the nation.
Whereas there may be uncertainty over the place the competitors will likely be held, there will likely be little doubt who will likely be competing for Asian soccer’s largest prize by June 14.
Right here, we check out the six teams within the third spherical of Asian Cup qualifiers and assess who’s likeliest to guide their place within the event.
GROUP A: Jordan, Kuwait (hosts), Indonesia, Nepal
On paper, Jordan will likely be favourites to complete high as the one staff not solely to have featured because the final Asian Cup, but in addition inside the highest 100 within the FIFA world rankings.
Kuwait nonetheless might need been capable of say the identical for themselves had it not been for a FIFA ban just a few years in the past. At their finest, they could be a powerful proposition they usually did rack up 19 objectives in eight video games on the earlier stage.
Indonesia are a younger staff on the rise, boasting some prodigiously-gifted expertise within the likes of Witan Sulaeman and Pratama Arhan, however the luck of the draw — having pitted them in opposition to Jordan and Kuwait — would possibly simply show expensive.
Prediction: Jordan and Kuwait to complete within the high two and each to comfortably qualify.
GROUP B: Palestine, Philippines, Yemen, Mongolia (hosts)
Philippines really look an actual probability to complete high primarily based on their shows within the earlier spherical, the place they produced a sequence of creditable showings in opposition to the likes of Syria and China. Nonetheless, they’ve not too long ago undergone upheaval within the teaching ranks.
Palestine must be trying to end inside the highest two though they did share a win every with Yemen when each groups met beforehand within the second spherical.
In the meantime, Mongolia will likely be hoping to profit from their residence benefit however are prone to end backside of the pile.
Prediction: Philippines and Palestine to say top-two finishes, however any slip-ups for both in opposition to Yemen — or perhaps a draw in opposition to each other — might make issues barely nervy for the runners-up.
GROUP C: Uzbekistan (hosts), Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka
Thailand are nonetheless coming off the excessive of successful a record-extending sixth AFF Suzuki Cup at first of the 12 months and did function within the Spherical of 16 on the final Asian Cup, whereas the Uzbeks are perennial challengers — which means a failure to qualify this time round could be a real shock.
Prediction: Each Uzbekistan and Thailand ought to at the very least get six factors comfortably to advance as winners and runners-up.
GROUP D: India (hosts), Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Cambodia
A genuinely powerful group to name with India maybe having a slight edge attributable to their hosts standing, in addition to the very fact they did function again in 2019.
Hong Kong are a staff with loads of potential — as illustrated by main membership facet Kitchee reaching the AFC Champions League Spherical of 16 this season — however that success is but to be replicated on the worldwide scene.
Afghanistan‘s inconsistency additionally makes them a little bit of an unknown amount, whereas Cambodia have made ahead strides with Japan legend Keisuke Honda on the helm however are nonetheless uncooked at this degree.
Prediction: India to qualify as group winners. Hong Kong to complete second however they must hope to do sufficient to advance as among the best runners-up.
GROUP E: Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Malaysia (hosts), Bangladesh
Bahrain would be the favourites in Group E and it’ll not be past them to say an ideal three wins over the subsequent seven days.
On paper, Turkmenistan — who featured on the Asian Cup for under the second time again in 2019 — must be subsequent in line however, in actuality, there may be little or no separating them and Malaysia by way of high quality.
The Malaysians do have a brand new man on the helm in South Korean Kim Pan-gon and the way properly he can get his expenses enjoying the best way he desires them to might be an enormous issue, particularly in opposition to Turkmenistan — with most factors in opposition to Bangladesh a non-negotiable.
Harimau Malaya’s residence benefit — each with the local weather and their vociferous assist — might show to be an actual issue.
Prediction: Bahrain to complete high with ease, with Malaysia rising to the event to say a spot on the Asian Cup with a runners-up end.
GROUP F: Kyrgyz Republic (hosts), Tajikistan, Myanmar, Singapore
Group F is wanting one other evenly-matched group with every staff doubtlessly able to beating every other on their day.
Prediction: Kyrgyz Republic to again up their 2019 debut with a second look at subsequent 12 months’s Asian Cup, whereas Tajikistan to complete second and provides themselves an actual probability.