Doha, Qatar: The semi-finalists of the AFC eAsian Cup were confirmed following a day of high octane knockout stage action at Doha’s Virtuocity eSports Arena, the region’s first and only year-round esports facility.
The 16 teams who advanced from the group stage battled it out in riveting best-of-three contests during the first half of the day, securing their positions in the highly anticipated last eight clashes that unfolded later in the evening with Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Japan advancing to the semi-finals.
ROUND OF 16
Lebanon vs United Arab Emirates
Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates set an electrifying tone for the day with a series of dramatic encounters.
In the first match, UAE took the lead in the 30th minute but Lebanon came back strongly in the second half, equalising almost immediately after the restart. UAE, however, responded soon after to triumph 2-1.
The second of the three matches saw a more composed Lebanon open their account as early as the third minute, going on to double their lead before going into the break.
Lebanon further brightened their quarter-final chances with a third goal in the second half, to force the contest into a deciding third match.
However, in the final tie, a first half goal sealed the last eight berth for the Emiratis.
Indonesia vs South Korea
After deciding to step back in the final group stage matches, Indonesia’s Elga Cahya Putra returned to the virtual pitch alongside Rizky Faidan.
The first match saw the duo keeping Korea Republic under pressure for the entirety of the 90 minutes of play. Despite the high-pressing game, Indonesia found themselves denied by the woodwork several times. The ASEAN side finally found the back of the net deep into the first half of extra time, before converting a penalty soon after to hand Korea Republic a 2-0 defeat.
In the second game, Korea Republic continued to struggle against the Indonesians and saw their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals dashed as they conceded an early goal in the first half and a second goal just seconds before the break.
Uzbekistan vs Qatar
It was heartbreak for Qatar after neither of their hard-fought battles against Uzbekistan finished in their favour, which meant elimination for the hosts.
In the first game, Qatar, who drew first blood, saw Uzbekistan find the equaliser in the 75th minute, taking the game into extra time, where the Central Asians scored three times, to finish the match with an impressive 4-1 victory.
The second game once again saw the two sides struggle to break the deadlock for 120 minutes, giving way to the first AFC eAsian Cup match to be decided on penalties. A surprisingly shaky performance from Qatar saw three of their spot-kicks saved, while Uzbekistan remained perfect.
Thailand vs Jordan
Not straying too far from their game plan from the group stage, Thailand scored in the early minutes of the first half in their opening tie and resorted to defending the lead for a 1-0 win over Jordan.
The second tie was one of the most action-packed matches of the AFC eAsian Cup yet, which saw Thailand take the lead in the fifth minute before losing it shortly after. This was followed by Jordan stealing a second goal in the 28th minute but parity was restored once again moments later. However, Jordan found their winning goal in the 75th minute.
In the deciding third game, neither side looked keen to take too many risks which took the tie to penalties after 120 minutes of goalless play, with Thailand winning 3-1.
Iran v Syria
Iran survived a tough test from Syria after an 89th minute winning goal helped them break a 1-1 deadlock in their first encounter.
Team Melli demonstrated a more offensive approach in the following clash, scoring twice in the first half and once after the break to close the game with a 3-0 triumph.
Bahrain vs Japan
Japan clinched their last eight berth in style with convincing wins in both games against Bahrain
Two first-half goals in the first match gave Japan a comfortable lead which was further extended after Bahrain scored an own goal when the game resumed. In the following match, Bahrain found themselves completely outplayed by the Japanese duo, who replicated the 3-0 scoreline.
Tajikistan vs Vietnam
In contrast to their rocky group stage campaign, Vietnam breezed through the Round of 16 with two wins over Tajikistan.
The first game saw Vietnam storm past the Tajik side 4-0, scoring twice in each half.
Tajikistan were more resilient in the second game, holding Vietnam to a goalless draw for 90 minutes but conceded in the 104th minute to crash out of the quarter-final race.
India vs Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia made their way into the quarter-finals without getting their feathers ruffled, registering two impressive wins over India.
The first match saw India put up a valiant fight against the Saudi Arabian side but an 80th minute goal from the Green Falcons spelled doom for the eTigers.
Fuelled by the win, Saudi Arabia produced an outstanding performance in their second outing. The West Asians scored once in the first half and three times in the second to hand a helpless Indian team a 4-0 defeat.
UAE vs Indonesia
UAE were just another victim in Indonesia’s path as the West Asians, despite throwing all that they had to offer, failed to make a dent in the Southeast Asian side’s defence as they fell to a 6-0 defeat.
The second meeting did little to improve the situation as Indonesia sailed six goals past the Emiratis who, however, managed a consolation.
Uzbekistan vs Thailand
Uzbekistan’s spirited run came to an end against Thailand, who won the first tie 2-0 win.
Uzbekistan showed more promise in the second tie but Thailand scored late on for a 2-1 win to comfortably advance.
Iran vs Japan
Japan avenged the Samurai Blue’s quarter-final defeat at the hands of Iran at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 when the two sides locked horns for a place in the semi-finals of the AFC eAsian Cup.
The East Asian side started shakily, losing the first match 1-0 but bounced back in the second to earn a win by the same scoreline.
The decider went to penalties after neither side could break the deadlock, with Japan edging Iran 4-3.
Vietnam vs Saudi Arabia
Vietnam’s campaign concluded after they fell short in their quarter-final encounter against Saudi Arabia.
The West Asians eked out a 1-0 win in a tightly fought first match and were kept under pressure by Vietnam in their second encounter, leading to a penalty shootout where the ASEAN side fell 3-1, after 120 minutes ended 0-0.
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