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 spots in the knockout stage.
The final day of men's football event at the 2018 Asian Games saw host nation Indonesia secure a place in the round of 16 in style. Indonesia U-23 topped Group A, when they defeated Hong Kong U-23 3-1 in their final group match at the Patriot Stadium. Lau Hok Ming opened the scoring for Hong Kong in the 39th minute, but second half goals from Irfan Jaya (46'), Stefano Lilipaly (85'), and Hanif Sjahbandi (90+4') ensured that the hosts followed the feats of fellow Southeast Asian sides Malaysia and Vietnam, who have also confirmed their places in the round of 16 as group winners.
Results on the final day of the group stage also meant that Thailand, for so long the best footballing nation in the region, did not make it out of the group stage. They could only end the group stage as the sixth best third-placed side, when only the top four third-placed teams will qualify to the round of 16, alongside group winners and runners up.
Myanmar U-23, the other Southeast Asian side to still be in contention for qualification before the final group match, however failed to advance, in a cruel and bizarre manner. They managed to defeat Iran U- 23 through goals by Lwin Moe Aung (56) and Htet Phyo Wai (68') to go level on four points with the eventual group winners, but they still ended in last place in Group F. All four teams finished the group stage on four points with a record of one win, one draw and one defeat, so the head-to-head tie-breaker could not be applied to decide final standings in the group. Instead, the conventional goal difference count was used. Group winners Iran had +1, North Korea in second and Saudi Arabia third had 0, while Myanmar had -1.
Timor-Leste U-23 meanwhile finished bottom of Group C, while Laos U-23 ended their campaign in second last in Group A, thanks to their 2-0 final group match win over Chinese Taipei.