Australia, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates had already secured places in the Cup draw before Wednesday’s penultimate round of qualifying, along with joint-hosts Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam who qualify automatically.
In Group B, Iran’s 2-0 win over Taiwan combined with South Korea’s 1-1 draw with Syria were enough to see the Iranians and Koreans through with one match still to play.
Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi scored both goals for Iran in Taipei with strikes in the 11th and 57th minutes to seal victory and qualification.
South Korea took an early lead in Seoul through a 9th minute Cho Jae-jin goal, only to see it cancelled out when Syria’s Maher Al Said netted nine minutes later, but the one point was enough for the Koreans to advance.
The UAE had already qualified from Group C, and Oman joined them with a 2-1 win over their Arabian Peninsula neighbours to reach their second consecutive Asian Cup finals.
Oman burst to life in Muscat midway through the first half as Hassan Modhafar scored in the 24th minute, along with Ismail Al Ajmi just four minutes later.
Mohammed Omar pulled one back for the visitors but Oman hung on to take top spot in the group, meaning that Jordan’s 3-0 win over Pakistan was to no avail.
Jordan can still equal the UAE on points, but the Emirates have a better head-to-head record and will therefore qualify ahead of the Jordanians.
Bahrain and Kuwait to fight it out
There was only one match in Group D on Wednesday due to Lebanon’s withdrawal from the competition, and this saw Australia defeat Bahrain 2-0 in Sydney through first half goals to John Aloisi and Marco Bresciano.
Bahrain sent their Under-23s squad to Sydney as they rested key players with injuries and also those on yellow cards ahead of their do-or-die final qualifying match against Kuwait in November.
Australia finish on top of the group, with the winner of the final group match in Manama joining them in the finals. Kuwait will qualify if the match is drawn.
Iraq’s Ahmed (L) and Jasem (C)
Iraq and China both needed wins to go through in Group E, and both teams got their wish with wins over Singapore and Palestine respectively.
Singapore took an early lead in Al Ain through an Egmar Goncalves goal in the 9th minute, only to see Iraq equalise through Younis Mahmoud before halftime.
Mahdi Karim made it 2-1 to Iraq in the 60th minute, but the Singaporeans equalised themselves when Khairul Amri scored two minutes later.
In what was a frantic eight minutes, Mahmoud scored his second in the 68th minute for Iraq to retake the lead, with Hawar Taher sealing the match with an injury time strike.
China’s win over Palestine was more straightforward, with Sun Xiang’s second half strike matching his teammate Mao Jianqing’s first half effort to see off the Palestinians in Amman.
Uzbekistan hold advantage over Hong Kong
The second and final undecided qualification place is in Group F, where Uzbekistan have a big advantage over Hong Kong due to a far superior goal difference.
The Uzbek’s 4-0 victory over the winless Bangladesh combined with Hong Kong’s 2-0 loss to undefeated Qatar in Doha sees Uzbekistan on eight points ahead of Hong Kong on five points with one match to play.
Hong Kong must hope that Qatar defeat Uzbekistan by a big margin in their final match, while they defeat Bangladesh by a big margin themselves to bridge the 12-goal goal difference between the teams.
The final round of qualification matches will be played on November 15.