UAE 2019 Qualifiers revisited
Abu Dhabi: The AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 is just a month away but the journey to the Continental showpiece started 44 months ago.
The bid to qualify for the biggest and best AFC Asian Cup - which will have an expanded 24 sides vying for glory - saw 46 teams in the fray, beginning with 12 countries in the first round of the Qualifiers back in March 2015.
Six teams then progressed to the second round, and by March of the following year, 12 teams - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Qatar, China PR, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Syria, Thailand, Iraq, Korea Republic and Uzbekistan - had confirmed qualification to UAE 2019 and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
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In the third round, 24 teams had a final chance of making it to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with their eyes on the top two spots of their respective groups.
Playing six games over the year filled with stunning goals, enticing action and drama, Lebanon, DPR Korea, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Jordan, Vietnam, Oman, Palestine, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Philippines and Yemen emerged victorious.
After a total of 252 matches and 820 goals, the 24-team cast was finalised in March, 2018.
The Qualifiers witnessed some miraculous achievements and significant milestones were reached, with Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines and Yemen set to make their AFC Asian Cup Finals debut.
Philippines and Yemen were drawn into Group H in the second round and despite some setbacks, grew from strength to strength to remain undefeated in the third round, finishing as the top two teams in Group F.
Kyrgyz Republic on the other hand, showed promise in the second round as racking up four wins, two draws and two losses that saw them finish third in Group B, and the White Falcons did not disappoint in the final round as they powered to 13 points, tied with India but enough to book their spot in their inaugural AFC Asian Cup as group runners-up due to a head-to-head disadvantage with the South Asians.
Yemen, who began their qualifying campaign in 2015, were drawn into Group D and will open their UAE 2019 campaign against Asian heavyweights Islamic Republic of Iran with Iraq and Vietnam completing the group.
Philippines and Kyrgyz Republic were drawn in Group C with two-time champions Korea Republic and China PR their challengers.
India are the other team who began their Road to UAE 2019 campaign in the first round in 2015.
The Blue Tigers overcame trials and tribulations from day one of the Qualifiers, and have shown fighting spirit to mark their fourth appearance in the AFC Asian Cup.
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