What has happened in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup so far?

The highly anticipated 2023 AFC Asian Cup, hosted by reigning champs Qatar, will see the holders face Jordan in the final

The 2023 AFC Asian Cup is taking place in Qatar.
The 2023 AFC Asian Cup is taking place in Qatar. / Masashi Hara/GettyImages
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The AFC Asian Cup, which started with six groups of four teams each, saw the semifinals play out this week. In the first Jordan stunned South Korea on Tuesday while Qatar defeated Iran on Wednesday.

So, what is the 2023 AFC Asian Cup? Where is it held? Why was it postponed to 2024 and when it was supposed to be held in 2023?

What has happened so far, and what should we know about this tournament?

Postponed 2023 AFC Asian Cup

The Asian Cup is being held for the 18th time by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). It began Jan.12 and will end Feb. 10.

The tournament was supposed to be held in China in June-July 2023. However, it was moved to Qatar after China withdrew from hosting due to a renewed COVID-19 outbreak. AFC announced this decision on Oct.17, 2022.

Given the extreme summer weather in the Persian Gulf and Qatar's involvement in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the tournament was postponed until January 2024, with the original name retained for sponsorship and logistical convenience.

This championship was first held in 1956, which makes it the second oldest continental football championship in the world after Copa América. Japan is the most successful team in the Asian Cup, having won the cup four times (1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011). Saudi Arabia and Iran each boast three trophies, South Korea two, and Qatar, Australia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Israel one each.

Group stage

Group matches were played from Jan. 12-25 . A total of 24 teams competed in the Asian Cup, with Qatar acting as hosts for the third time (1988 and 2011). The top two teams from each of the six groups advanced directly to the Round of 16, joined by the the four best third-place teams.

In the opening match, Qatar and Lebanon faced each other at the Lusail Stadium on Friday, Jan. 12, with the hosts winning 3-0. Qatar, Iran and Iraq, advanced out of the group stage with the maximum 9 points, quickly attracting attention as favorites. The other countries advancing out of the group stage are shown below.

Round of 16

The Rounf of 16 games were played from Jan. 28-31. Palestine, which was among the last 16 teams for the first time in history, faced host Qatar, losing 2-1.

Meanwhile, Australia defeated Indonesia 4-0 to qualify for the quarterfinals. The match between Tajikistan and the United Arab Emirates ended 1-1 and went to penalties, eventually ending with a score of 5-3 in favor of Tajikistan. Jordan defeated Iraq 3-2, Uzbekistan defeated Thailand 2-1, and Japan defeated Bahrain 3-1.

Other games that went to penalties at this stage were Saudi Arabia-South Korea, as well as Iran-Syria. Both games ended 1-1. South Korea beat Saudi Arabia 4-2 in the shootout while Iran outlasted Syria 5-3. In the games that went to penalties, the fans of the countries waited anxiously until the last moment, not knowing what was going to happen. This was the real football excitement!

Quarterfinal

The quarterfinal matches took place on Feb. 2-3.

Iran advanced to the semi-finals by beating Japan 2-1 with goals from Mohammad Mohebi in the 55th minute and Alireza Jahanbakhsh's penalty kick in the 96th minute. In this game, which remained dramatic until the last moment, Japan's goal was scored by Hidemasa Morita in the 28th minute.

The quarterfinal match between Qatar and Uzbekistan ended 1-1 with goals scored by Hasan Al-Haydos in the 27th minute and Odiljon Hamrobekov who netted in the 59th minute. Qatar, which had a 3-2 advantage over its opponent in the penalty shoot-out, advanced to the next round to face Iran in the semifinals.

Jordan beat Tajikistan 1-0 with Vakhdat Khanonov's own goal in the 66th minute and reached the semifinals of the Asian Cup for the first time.

In another quarterfinals pairing, Australia took on South Korea. Although Australia took the lead 1-0 with a goal from Craig Goodwin in the 42nd minute, South Korea equalized with Hwang Hee-Chan's goal from the penalty spot in the 6th minute of added time. Son Heung-Min put his team ahead 2-1 in the 104th minute, and Australia's Aiden Connor O'Neill received a red card in the 4th minute of added time. In the end, South Korea defeated Australia 2-1 to make its way to the semifinals.

Semifinals and final

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The final match of the 2023 Asian Cup on Feb. 10 will be held at Lusail Stadium, where the World Cup final was also played. With bated breath, everyone is waiting to see who will be the winner at the end of this tournament.