Southeast Asian teams face tough challenges in Asian Cup's round of 16

By Hoang An   January 26, 2024 | 01:11 am PT
Thailand face Uzbekistan while Indonesia play Australia in the round of 16 in Asian Cup, but the spotlight is the clash between South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Thailand (white jersey) draw 0-0 against Saudi Arabia in the final round of Asian Cup group stage on Jan. 25, 2024. Photo by Asian Football Confederation

Thailand (white jersey) in the 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in the final round of Asian Cup group stage on Jan. 25, 2024. Photo by the Asian Football Confederation

The last round of the group stage concluded on Thursday and the eight matches of the round of 16 are Tajikistan vs UAE, Iraq vs Jordan, Australia vs Indonesia, Saudi Arabia vs South Korea, Iran vs Syria, Bahrain vs Japan, Qatar vs Palestine and Uzbekistan vs Thailand.

Tajikistan made it past the group stage in their first Asian Cup. Indonesia, Syria and Palestine also made history after advancing to the round of 16 for the first time. Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan, who always survived the group stage in their previous Asian Cup tournaments, went home early this time.

The group stage also showed domination from West Asia when 11 teams moved on, while East Asia only has five teams. The only team in South Asia, India, were eliminated after three losses and no goals scored.

The supercomputer of U.K. sports analytics firm Opta said Australia have the best chance to advance to the quarterfinals with 81.2%, as their opponent Indonesia have the lowest chance. The two teams are also 121 places apart on FIFA world ranking. This is also the first game in the round of 16, which will take place on Sunday.

Compared to Indonesia, Thailand have a higher chance of moving on with 36.3% as they will play Uzbekistan on Jan. 30. Thailand have not conceded in this year's tournament while Uzbekistan have only scored four in the group stage. History also leans toward Thailand when they had six wins and four defeats against Uzbekistan, although they lost in the most recent two encounters.

South Korea and Saudi Arabia match is considered the most anticipated in the round of 16 as both teams are among the best in Asia. Opta calculated that the chance for South Korea to advance is 52.7%, slightly better than Saudi Arabia's 47.3%.

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