Debutants set to shine in UAE 2019
Kuala Lumpur: The decision to expand the AFC Asian Cup to 24 teams has had an immediate impact with Kyrgyz Republic, the Philippines and Yemen qualifying for the Finals for the first time in history.
A frenetic final day of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 saw DPR Korea, the Philippines and Yemen taking the last three available spots on Tuesday.
Kyrgyz Republic ended their campaign with a 2-1 win over India in Group A but they had sealed their place in the Finals after defeating Myanmar 5-1 last Thursday.
Join the-AFC.com as we take a look at the three teams who have taken their place among the Continent’s best for next January’s extravaganza in the United Arab Emirates.
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Kyrgyz Republic fully deserve their place in the Finals as they were in unstoppable form from the fourth match onwards in Group A.
They opened their campaign with a 1-0 win at home against Macau but were undone when they fell by the same scoreline to India in Bangalore.
That was followed by a 2-2 draw with Myanmar in Yangon but come the fourth match, Aleksandr Krestinin's team burst into life.
Kyrgyz Republic scored a thrilling 4-3 win over Macau, which meant a win over Myanmar in their next match would seal them a place in the AFC Asian Cup Finals for the first time.
Played at the neutral venue of Incheon Stadium in Korea Republic, Kyrgyz Republic were in awesome form as they defeated Myanmar 5-1 to join India as the qualifiers from Group A.
Krestinin’s men were not finished yet though as they wrapped up their qualifying campaign by defeating India 2-1 on Tuesday. The margin of victory wasn’t enough to seal top spot in the group, with India finishing ahead on goal difference but that won’t bother Kyrgyz Republic.
They have sent a message out that they are a quality side and Asia’s best will be wary of drawing them in May’s draw.
The UAE 2019 Cast
From the onset, Philippines were a team on a mission, eager to erase their heartbreak from four years ago when they were just one match away from Australia 2015, only to fall at the finishing hurdle against Palestine in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup.
Showing glimpses of their promise in the second round of qualifiers, the Azkals registered impressive victories over DPR Korea, Bahrain and Yemen to finish third in Group H and subsequently rose to an all-time high of 115th in the FIFA World Ranking in May 2016.
The Southeast Asian side stormed off the blocks in the final round of the qualifiers, with an inspiring 4-1 home victory over Nepal before edging past Tajikistan in an epic 4-3 thriller in Dushanbe to solidify top spot in Group F after two matches.
Three successive draws later, two against Yemen and a goalless stalemate away to Nepal, the Azkals were on the brink of history with just a point against Tajikistan in the final match guaranteeing their place amongst Asia’s elite.
Spurred on by a buoyant crowd at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, the home side displayed formidable resilience to come back from a goal down against Tajikistan, courtesy of goals from Philip Younghusband and Kevin Ingreso to clinch a famous 2-1 victory and top spot in Group F.
Yemen will feature in the AFC Asian Cup Finals for the first time since unification and they are sure to be one of the highlights of UAE 2019.
Qualification was secured despite having to play their home matches in a neutral venue.
Not being able to play in front of their adoring fans only seemed to galvanise them to join the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 cast.
It was not an easy qualifying campaign as Yemen, while finishing undefeated, ended with a record of two wins and four draws.
Even then, qualification was secured before they defeated Nepal 2-1 in their final Group F match on Tuesday, thanks to the Philippines beating Tajikistan by the same score in their deciding tie.
A superior head-to-head against Tajikistan meant Yemen were assured of second place in the group and coach Abraham Mebratu will now be focused on ensuring his players prepare well for next January’s challenge.
It won’t be easy as the majority of his players are not playing competitively on a regular basis but having overcome extremely difficult odds to clinch qualification, Yemen will be on a mission to impress in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
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