After 36 matches, the group stage of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 ended here on Thursday with Oman and Vietnam clinching the last two tickets for the round of 16 knockouts.
At Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Oman, who had lost to Uzbekistan and Japan, started brightly against their last opponents Turkmenistan, who had also suffered two defeats in Group F.
Raed Saleh capitalised on a stray Turkmenistan pass and won a free-kick on top of his opponents' penalty area. Captain Ahmed Al Mahaijri followed that up in the 20th minute with a well-struck shot hit over the wall and past the helpless keeper Mamed Orazmuhamedov.
Turkmenistan found an equalizer shortly before half-time as Altymyrat Annadurdyyev pounced on a fortuitous deflected pass and poked a goal in at the near post.
Drama followed as Oman scored two late goals that ultimately booked their place in the knockout stage for the first time at the Asian Cup.
Al Mahaijri turned provider when he cut back a pass for Muhsen Al Ghassani, who scored from close range on 84 minutes. Mohammed Al-Musallami then made sure Oman's tournament would continue thanks to his stoppage-time header.
In Group E, Lebanon cruised past DPR Korea 4-1 to finish third with 3 points, but both sides were eliminated.
The tournament regulates that the top two of each of the six four-team group plus the best four third finishers advance to the round of 16 knockouts. After today's games, the six third finishers were Bahrain with 4 points, Kyrgyzstan 3 points, Oman 3 points, Vietnam 3 points, Lebanon 3 points, and Palestine 2 points. Following Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan and Oman advanced due to better goal difference. Vietnam and Lebanon shared the same goal for and against. Vietnam survived because they got 5 yellow cards in three games, which are fewer than Lebanon's 7.
In today's two other matches only to decide the winners and runners-up of the groups, Japan beat Uzbekistan 2-1 to top Group F. Young striker Almoez Ali, who had already collected one goal against Lebanon and four goals against DPR Korea, scored twice to help Qatar upset Saudi Arabia 2-0 to top Group E.
Ali's brace takes him to an impressive tally of seven goals at UAE 2019, just one away from equaling Ali Daei's record of eight goals scored in 1996.
Following are the round of 16 fixtures:
Jordan vs Vietnam, Thailand vs China, Iran vs Oman, Japan vs Saudi Arabia, Australia vs Uzbekistan, UAE vs Kyrgyzstan, South Korea vs Bahrain, Qatar vs Iraq.