BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Southeast Asian countries have given a good account of themselves in the 2018 Asian Games' men's football event, with three countries having booked their respective spot in the knockout stage.
Malaysia U-23 have announced their intent in stunning fashion by defeating a strong South Korea U-23 side 2-1 last Friday, a victory which guaranteed them a top-spot finish in Group E. Regardless of the result of their remaining group match on Monday, against Bahrain U-23, they will face Japan U-23 in the round of 16, and head coach Ong Kim Swee have the luxury of resting his key players against the West Asian side.
Vietnam U-23 too finished top of their group, Group D, after edging Japan U-23 1-0 in their last group match on Sunday. They have won all three of their group matches, scored six goals while conceding none, a stunning record for the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship runners up. Their round of 16 opponents have not been determined yet.
Host country Indonesia U-23 had earlier needed to beat Hong Kong U-23 in their final Group A match on Monday in order to reach the knockout stage, but a shock result in another group helped the hosts secure qualification. Group B ended with Bangladesh U-23 upsetting Qatar U-23 1-0, and AFC U-23 Championship winners Uzbekistan U-23 defeating Thailand 1-0 as well. These results mean that Indonesia are the best third-placed team with a game in hand, and they can still qualify as group runners up if they beat Hong Kong.
Indonesia U-23. Photo by Abi Yazid
Thailand U-23 meanwhile have surprisingly underperformed in the tournament, and could may well exit the tournament early. After losing to Uzbekistan in their last Group B match on Sunday, they are currently ranked fourth among the third-place finishers, but could see their spot snatched by teams from Groups A, E and F, who play their final group matches on Monday.
One of such teams is Myanmar U-23, currently sixth best third place team with one game in hand. They too can still finish the group stage in second place and secure qualification, if they beat Iran U-23 in their last match.
Meanwhile, Laos U-23 are currently in last place of Group A without any point. However, they can finish the tournament in second last if they defeat Chinese Taipei U-23.
Timor-Leste U-23 ended their campaign in Group C in last place with no points.
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