Which of Asian Cup's eliminated teams are heading home with pride and which were disappointments?

Malaysia bowed out of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup by giving their fans a result to remember as they came from behind twice to force a 3-3 draw with powerhouses South Korea in their final Group E outing. HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

After two gruelling weeks which served up no shortage of drama, the group stage of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup has concluded and the round of 16 lineup is set.

With the tournament boasting 24 teams in total, it means that just eight nations will be heading home early.

For each team that will be leaving Qatar with their heads held high, there will also be those wondering what might have been after flattering to deceive.

As the dust settles on the group stage ahead of the round of 16 kicking off on Sunday, we assess the overall performances of the Asian Cup's eight eliminated teams thus far.


For a side that were runners-up twice and reached the quarterfinals in the previous two editions, failing to make it out of the group stage was always going to be viewed a failure -- but that is not even the full story of China's woes.

For the first time ever, the Chinese failed to even score a single goal and were one of only two sides with such an unwanted record.

With two points from draws against Tajikistan and Lebanon, China did initially give themselves a chance of sneaking in as one the four best-performing third-placed teams but, perhaps fittingly, it did not take long for those hopes to vanish as the final match day of the group stage wore on.

Grade: D


Lebanon were always going to be an interesting proposition given they are far from pushovers but arguably still a fair distance from matching it with the continent's top-tier nations.

A 3-0 loss to Qatar followed by a 0-0 draw against China were not the worst results, but it was a final-day 2-1 loss to Tajikistan that proved costly.

Tajikistan deserve plenty of credit for the endeavour they displayed in their tournament debut but, considering their far greater experience, it was a match the Lebanese would have been expected to win.

Grade: C


After missing out on a knockout round berth by a solitary point back in 2019, the situation was far more straightforward for India this time around -- but not in the manner they would have been hoping for.

They were still a slim chance of qualifying even in their final match against Syria but would eventually lose all three matches without scoring a goal.

Their lack of firepower will be something that needs to be addressed although they did produce commendable displays in defeats to Australia and Syria, with their 3-0 loss at the hands of Uzbekistan the only game in which they were outclassed.

Grade: B-


For a side who were making their first Asian Cup appearance in 56 years, Hong Kong's record of three straight defeats might suggest there was a distinct gulf in class between them and their Group C opponents -- but that was the furthest thing from the truth.

Hong Kong gave an excellent account of themselves against formidable opposition, even holding Iran -- ranked 21st in the world -- to just one goal in a match that they might have gotten something out of were it not for a couple of debatable refereeing decisions.

Hong Kong will also go down in the history books after Chan Siu Kwan scored the tournament's 1,000th goal against United Arab Emirates -- quite poetically, considering they also netted the very first all the way back in 1956.

Grade: A


After making a dream run to the quarterfinals in 2019, it would be easy to assume Vietnam regressed after losing all three of their Group D matches.

In truth, they are a team in transition following the appointment of Philippe Troussier as Park Hang-Seo's successor and boasted one of the youngest squads at the tournament with an average age of 24.

They showed glimpses of quality in plucky defeats to Japan and Iraq, with their 1-0 loss to Indonesia the one game where they might have felt they could have done far better in.

Grade: B-


Malaysia's return to the Asian Cup for the first time since 2007 could not have gotten off to a worse start as they were handed a 4-0 humbling at the hands of Jordan.

By the time they dropped their second match in heartbreaking fashion -- conceding in the 95th minute to lose 1-0 to Bahrain -- their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage were officially ended.

But with no one giving them a chance against a star-studded South Korea side on Wednesday, Harimau Malaya saved their best for last as they came from behind twice -- and even led at one stage -- for a 3-3 draw that will live long in the memory of their fans.

Grade: B


Having made it to the round of 16 for the first time ever last time out, Oman will be bitterly disappointed they failed to back it up -- especially given the manner in which they failed.

A narrow 2-1 loss in their opener to Saudi Arabia gave them reason to be optimistic yet they then failed to find a way past Thailand in a 0-0 draw which they dominated.

Their destiny was still in their own hands on Thursday but they squandered several good opportunities when leading while also allowing Kyrgyz Republic a fair share of openings, as Joel Kojo's 80th-minute equaliser meant both sides would be heading home.

Grade: C-


In their tournament debut back in 2019, Kyrgyz Republic exceeded all expectations by reaching the round of 16 before losing to UAE only after extra-time.

There would be no such heroics on this occasion even if they were still in with a chance entering their final game against Oman, with the Central Asian outfit condemned to a bottom spot finish and just a solitary point to their names.

Overall, Kyrgyz Republic gave a decent account of themselves considering the quality of opposition they were up against in a difficult group, and never once looked like they were out of their depth.

Grade: B-