Bahrain will play table-leaders South Korea in their third and final Group E game in the football tournament of the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, today with their head coach declaring his players were happy to have the chance to play against one of the best teams in Asia.
Defending champions Korea – who are seeking a hat-trick of championship triumphs, having also won gold in the 2014 Asian Games – currently lead the four-team table with six points from two consecutive wins: the first, a 13-0 thrashing of Kuwait, and the second, a 4-0 hammering administered to Thailand.
Bahrain are second with two points from two draws, both featuring a 1-1 score-line against Thailand and Kuwait.
“We are preparing to play a tough game against probably the best team in the tournament because they’ve won gold in the last two Asian Games,” Bahrain head coach Dario Basic told the GDN by phone from Hangzhou.
“They’re a very strong team with their younger players having already demonstrated their talent in the first two games and they have three over-age players (allowed to every team) who are also very good.
“In addition, most of their players play for clubs in Germany, France … all over Europe, in fact.
“But we’re happy for the challenge because our players will have the opportunity to play against one of the best teams in Asia. We can’t wait to see how it will turn out!”
Basic added that a two-day break after their drawn game against Kuwait last Thursday had helped his players prepare for the crucial Korea clash.
“The boys look good, very fresh,” he said.
“They’ve spent these last two days practising very hard. Korea, as I said, are a very strong team but we will try to do our best. We want to be very organised and we want to ensure they don’t get too many opportunities to score.
“So I’m optimistic for this game, especially because we have a good chance to qualify for the next round, no matter what the result of this match is.”
According to the tournament’s format, the top two teams from each of the competition’s six groups go straight through to the next round while the four best third-placed sides also qualify.
If Bahrain win, they would finish in second place and qualify directly for the next round. But, they could go through even if they draw or lose this game, provided they finish in third place in the table and are counted amongst the four best third-placed teams.
Much will depend, also, on the result of the other group match between Thailand, who are currently in third place with 1 point, and Kuwait, who also have one point but are last in the table because of goal difference.
However, even if either of Thailand or Kuwait get three points from a win today and Bahrain lose to Korea, the kingdom’s team would still finish in third place and could be counted amongst the four best third-placed teams from across the six groups.
“Of course, we will try to win – and if we do, we will be second in the group,” Basic explained.
“But, even if we draw or lose, we could still qualify if we are ranked amongst the best four third-placed sides in the preliminary round.”