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Asian Cup Into The Quarter-Finals, The Race Is Nearing The Finish Line.
The Asian Cup, UAE 2019 round of 16 has been decided, and all the pre-tournament favorites still fight on. Among the quarterfinalists includes Australia, China, Iran Japan, Qatar, South Korea, UAE, Vietnam. Jordan 1(2) vs 1(4) Vietnam: Surprise quarter-finalist, Vietnam, won their round of 16 knock-out match for the 1st time in an Asian Cup at the expense of Jordan. It could be recalled that Vietnam qualified into the round of 16 by the whisker, having reached the stage via a spot in one of the 4 best 3rd-placed finishes, In contrast to Jordan who won their group B, beating Australia along the way. It was the Jordanian that took a 1st half lead through a spectacular tight corner free-kick through Baha Abdel-Rahman in the 31st minute, but the Vietnamese pegged Jordan back in the 2nd half, a Nguyen Cong Phuong's 51st minute shot inside the box to level matters and held on till the end of 90 minutes. The additional 30 minutes could not separate both Jordan and Vietnam and thus, it has to be decided by spot kicks. The Jordanian duo of Baha Seif (who hit the crossbar) and Ahmed Saleh (whose kick was saved) missed their kicks, while the Vietnamese had better luck with their kicks missing only 1 through Tran Minh Vuong, and then winning the kicks 4-2. Vietnam reward is a quarter-final berth against Japan. Thailand 1 vs 2 China: It was China's turn in the second round of 16 matches against Thailand. The 2-time runner up, desperately in search of their 1st ever Asian Cup title had to fight their way back from the jaws of defeat after going 1 nil down to a 31st minute goal from Thailand's Supachai Jaided, but China leveled, thanks to their 33-year old lanky striker, Xiao Zhi, who came of the bench in the 64th minute to clinch a 67th minute equalizer, before another China forward, Gao Lin converted a 71st minute spot kick to ensure a deserved victory for China. China will host Iran in their quarter-final. Iran 2 vs 0 Oman: Former champion and 3-times Asian Cup winner between 1968-1976, Iran, were hoping to put to an end, their 43 years long wait for another title, and fancied their chance against lowly Oman. Having qualified from group D with 7 goals scored and none conceded, the odds favor Iran to go past Oman, who managed to qualify through the best 3rd-finish. Iran did not disappoint, with 2 1st half goals more than enough to put the game to bed, firstly, an Alireza Jahanbakhsh's 32nd minute finish, then, an Ashkan Dejagah's 41st-minute spot kick. Oman would have themselves to blame though, after squandering a 2nd-minute spot kick to have taken the lead, but it was not meant to be. getty images Japan 1vs 0 Saudi Arabia: Match of the round was definitely between Japan and Saudi Arabia in terms of status and titles, with 7 titles shared between them, 4 for Japan and 3 for Saudi Arabia, it would not be wrong to have tagged it clash of the Titans. The last 6 matches between these two had seen them winning 3 each, it was an intriguing match with no pre-match clear cut favorite. Japan deploying a traditional 4-4-2 formation saw less of the ball, with Saudi Arabia controlling the game, having deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation. However, despite sharing the larger possession of the ball, Saudi Arabia were not clinical in front of the Japanese goal, with 15 shots and only 1 was on target, they were punished by Japan who fared better in front of goal, having just 5 shot, 2 on target, with the lone goal through Takehiro Tomiyasu. Japan now through to the quarterfinals for the 8 consecutive time in the competition. Australia 0(4) vs 0(2) Uzbekistan: The defending champion Australia was made to go the extra miles before they could go past Uzbekistan. It was a fairly even match that could not produce a winner after 120 minutes of football, and it had to be decided through the dreaded spot kicks. Both teams had qualified to this stage after coming 2nd from their respective group B and F, yet the odds slightly favor Australia, who had won the previous 3 matches between them and Uzbekistan scoring a combined 9 goals and conceding none. However, the Socceroos had a less admirable 1st half where they troubled-not the Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov. Australia turned on the gas in the 2nd half but had Nesterov in Uzbekistan goal to beat, the ball just won't go past him. Nesterov was eventually beaten but it was in the shootout, Australia scored 4 of their 5 spot kicks and had their own goalkeeper, Maty Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper) to thank for his heroics, saving 2 spot kicks from Uzbekistan's Islam Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev, and thus won 4-2. The Socceroos will now slug it out with the host UAE in the quarter-final. UAE 3 vs 2 Kyrgyzstan: Every tournament wants the host to go far in a competition, so, the locals will be delighted to see the host, UAE advanced into the last 8. It did not come easy though, as the host needed an extra time spot-kick winner to advanced ahead of an unfazed Kyrgyzstan. It was an even game, with both side threatened in the attack, the host slightly edge in control of the game with a 56% possession to Kyrgyzstan's 44%. UAE got their noses in front from a Khamis Esmaeel goal, but were pegged back just 12 minutes later through Kyrgyzstan's Mirlan Murzaev, the host regained the lead in the 64th minute through Ali Ahmed Mabkhout and thought they have secured the win but were shocked in the 90th minutes when Tursunali Rustamov equalized for Kyrgyzstan to push the game into the extra time. UAE's blushes were saved when substitute striker, Ahmed Khalil came off the bench to net a 103rd-minute spot-kick winner. getty images South Korea 2 vs 1 Bahrain: South Korea is arguably the strongest team in the tournament, the 2-time champions were expected to have it easy over Bahrain, but it was not to be, as the mennows gave a good fight, and bowed out of the tournament 1-2 after extra time with their heads held high. The Koreans had the larger share of the possession, 68% to Bahrain's 32%, but that was as good as it got for the Koreans, it took them almost the entire 1st half to have a breakthrough, Hwang Hee-Chans 43rd minutes goal was thought to be the beginning of the in flocks of goals, but the Bahrainians were resolute, and even got their equalizer in the 77th minute through Mohamed Al Romaihi, to extend the match into extra time. South Korean made their quality counted in the extra time with a Kim Jin-Su 105th header to book a quarter-final match with Qatar. Qatar 1 vs 0 Iraq: Qatar came into the round of 16 with the meanest defense, having conceded zero goal in the group stage, and scoring 10 goals, and was expected to score against Iraq who on the other hand had conceded 2 goals and scored 6. In the end, it was a scrappy match in which the oil-rich nation, and 2022 world cup host edge with a lone goal, a delightful free-kick scored by Bassam Al Rawi, amazingly (or shockingly) the son of ex-Iraqi footballer international, Hisham Al-Rawi. Despite the boos aimed at the Qatari from the fans in disapproval of the Gulf blockage by Qatar, they held on to claim their victory. The complete quarter final line up is as follows: Vietnam (VIE) vs Japan (JPN) China (CHN) vs Iran (IRN) South Korea (KOR) vs Qatar (QAT) United Arab Emirates (UAE) vs Australia (AUS) For more information highlights, and pictures on UAE 2019, check website Thank you all for your support