Muscat: Oman may have lost their first Asian Cup match 2-1 to Uzbekistan, but they still have a very good chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.
The Japanese are next for Oman, at 5:30 PM on January 13, followed by their final Group F game against Turkmenistan on the 17th.
While all of us do want Oman to go all the way to the final and taste success, Times of Oman has plotted out the path that lies ahead for Oman, should they reach the final on February 1 in Abu Dhabi.
The top two teams from each group go through to the last eight, as do four of the best third-placed teams across the six groups.
Oman are one of five Gulf nations taking part in this year's Asian Cup, and it goes without saying that all of us in the Sultanate are wholeheartedly supporting the national team while they are away in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.
If Oman win Group F
Oman are currently fourth in Group F, with no points to their name, after their loss to the Uzbeks, with Japan’s 3-2 win over Turkmenistan making this a very tight group.
A single goal could change the composition of this group, so Oman are in no way out of the competition. Should Oman win Group F, they will face the runner-up of Group E.
Group E contains Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and North Korea, with the favourites being the two GCC nations. If Oman win Group F, they are therefore likely to face either Saudi Arabia or Qatar on the 21st in Sharjah
Both the Saudis and Qataris won their opening fixture against the North Koreans (4-0) and Lebanon (2-0).
If Oman finish second in Group F
Oman finishing second in Group F will see them face the runners-up from Group B at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on the 21st. Group B features Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Australia.
While one would expect defending champions Australia to be the biggest threat, they lost their opening game in a shocking 1-0 defeat to Jordan. Palestine and Syria played out a goalless draw.
However, they are far from out of the tournament, and this group is anybody’s to claim, so Oman could resign themselves to facing any one of Australia, Syria, Palestine or Jordan.
If Oman finish third in Group F
According to the rules of the AFC Asian Cup, the four third-placed teams with the best results at the tournament go through, while the other two go home.
Currently, those slots are occupied by the UAE, Palestine, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon, but that could obviously change since all the teams have played just the one game so far.
If Oman do finish third, they will face the winner of Group C, which is by far one of the toughest groups, featuring both China and South Korea, as well as Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines. Oman’s most likely opponent could therefore be South Korea, or at a push, China.
Qualification for the third-placed teams to the knockout stages is decided on the basis of the following: games won, drawn and lost, as well as goals scored for and against, goal difference and total points collected.