After four matches of the group stages in Group A of the AFC Asian Cup, all four teams are in with a chance of making the Round of 16.
The Blue Tigers have won one and lost a game in UAE so far and sit in second place in Group A ahead of the final round of games.
India face Bahrain in their final group game in Sharjah knowing a point would secure qualification to the Round of 16; but a defeat could leave their hopes of continuing in the competition in the balance.
Thailand gave themselves a lifeline with a 1-0 win against Bahrain, while hosts UAE’s 2-0 win put them atop the Group A standings.
Here are the different scenarios that could play out today and how they affect India’s chances of qualification.
Scenario 1: India defeat Bahrain
If India beat Bahrain, then qualification is assured irrespective of how the match between UAE and Thailand turns out. If UAE beat Thailand, then India will go through as group runners-up and will potentially face a tough tie against China PR or South Korea.
On the other hand, if Thailand draws with UAE, the latter qualify as group runners-up while India goes through as group winners. Even if Thailand beats UAE, India will qualify as group winners despite being level on points with the Thai team. Superior head-to-head will place the Blue Tigers above Thailand in this case.
Scenario 2: India draw with Bahrain
The Blue Tigers would still progress to the Round of 16 if they eke out a point from the game against Bahrain irrespective of the result in the UAE-Bahrain game. However, their position in Group A would be dependent on the match in Al Ain.
A draw would end India’s hopes of winning Group A, but they would be able to secure second place with a draw if UAE beat or hold Thailand. However, a Thailand win would relegate India to third place in the Group. But with four points in their kitty, India would qualify for the Round of 16 as one of the four third-place teams.
Scenario 3: India lose to Bahrain
If India lose, they will definitely not finish in the top two, and they would have to hope for UAE to beat Thailand in order to finish in third place and finish with a chance of going through as one of the best-placed third-placed finishers.
A Thailand win or draw would then condemn India to a last-place finish and drop out of the competition.
With all three scenarios on the cards, India still have the ball in their court and would look for nothing less than a win against Bahrain