Updated: Situations which will determine India's progression to the knockout stages
After hitting new heights in their first group match against Thailand, Stephen Constantine’s Blue Tigers went into Thursday's fixture against UAE full of confidence and hoping to secure their place in the Round of 16 with a match to spare. However, events took a different turn as the Whites beat the Sunil Chhetri-led unit 2-0 to take the top spot in Group A.
Thailand’s 1-0 win over Bahrain in the other group match coupled with that result at the Zayed Sports City Stadium meant that all four teams are in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stage going into the last round of group matches on January 14. India will face off against Bahrain at the Al-Sharjah Stadium in the all-important encounter, while hosts UAE will square off against Thailand.
Top two teams from each of the six groups, along with the four top third-placed teams, will move on to the Round of 16. Here’s a look at how Group A currently stands.
The @IndianFootball team 🇮🇳 are still in the race to qualify for the next round of the @afcasiancup after their encounter against UAE last night.#BlueTigers #BackTheBlue #FanBannaPadega #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/z1q5G2MHdD— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 11, 2019
Going into the crunch match against Bahrain, we contemplate the different permutations and combinations of results, and where they would leave Constantine’s men at the end of the group stage.
1. India win vs Bahrain – Through to next round
Currently on three points, a win would be the best possible result for the Blue Tigers and would confirm their qualification into the knock-out stage irrespective of whatever happens in the UAE vs Thailand tie.
A UAE win in the other match would see the Whites take top spot with seven points, with India finishing second with six. Thailand would then finish third, while Bahrain would be bottom.
Meanwhile, a win for the War Elephants would see them finish with the same number of points as the Blue Tigers, albeit they would take second place courtesy of their head-to-head record.
In case of a draw between them, UAE would go through as the second-placed team behind India.
2. India draw vs Bahrain – Through to next round
Based on recent results in other groups, the Blue Tigers would qualify for the Round of 16 even if they manage to hold Bahrain to a draw on Monday.
If the Emiratis win against Thailand in the other match, they will finish top of the group with seven points, while India would go through as the second-placed team with four points. Thailand would then be third with three points followed by Bahrain with two.
A draw in the UAE vs Thailand match would see UAE finish top with five points and both India and Thailand would finish with four points. The Blue Tigers will take the second-place owing to their win over the War Elephants in the opening fixture.
A win for the War Elephants against UAE would take Thailand through as the group toppers, while the Emiratis and India would both have four points in their kitty. In such a scenario, the Whites would finish second thanks to their 2-0 win over the Blue Tigers. India would finish third with four points. However, on the back of recent results in the other groups, the Blue Tigers would still be guaranteed to become one of the best four third-placed teams and will book a spot in the Round of 16. As things stand now, only Syria or Palestine in Group B can be a third-placed team with four points.
3. India lose vs Bahrain – Dependency on results from other groups
A loss to Bahrain would mean that the Blue Tigers have no chance of winning an automatic qualification as one of the top two, and chances of making it through as a third-placed team would be dependent on the results of the other groups.
A UAE win in the other match would mean that they and Bahrain go through as group-winners and runners-up respectively. India would finish third with three points and will have to rely on other results going their way to make it through to the next round. However, India would still have an advantage because of the goal difference and avoiding a heavy defeat against Bahrain may be enough to get them through.
Should Thailand manage to avoid defeat, be it a win or a draw, the Blue Tigers would then finish at the bottom of the group and bid goodbye to the AFC Asian Cup 2019.