- First-ever AFC Asian Cup qualification for Philippines, Yemen
- Korea DPR also qualified on final matchday
- Expanded 24-nation competition commences in January
The 24-nation field for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates has been completed, with Philippines and Yemen the latest nations to secure maiden qualification.
The pair progressed on Tuesday’s final matchday to join Kyrgyz Republic as the other new faces in the newly-expanded competition.
A team on a mission after missing out at the final hurdle in 2015, Philippines simply needed to avoid defeat at home against a Tajikistan side also chasing inaugural qualification.
The Tajiks took the lead but the home side, spurred on by a buoyant crowd in Manila, got over the line as goals from Philip Younghusband and Kevin Ingreso clinched a famous 2-1 victory to lock up top spot in the group.
Tajikistan’s defeat ensured Yemen’s qualification for the first time since unification, despite being forced to play all their home matches on neutral territory. Yemen, nevertheless, celebrated qualification with a 2-1 win over Nepal in Doha to end the final group campaign unbeaten.
Korea DPR shored up the other ticket on Tuesday’s final matchday with a 2-0 victory over Hong Kong in front of a large crowd in Pyongyang. First-half goals ended Hong Kong’s hopes of the three points they needed to break a 50-year drought from the continental showpiece.
The campaign took place over nearly three years, with the early stages of qualification wrapped into Asia’s qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
United Arab Emirates will host the tournament in January, where 2015 hosts Australia will seek to defend their crown after appearing in last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup as Asian champions.