Will the underdogs upstage the titans in the Asian Cup 2023 quarterfinals?

The Asian Cup quarterfinals pit regional giants against each other but also see underdogs take on the holders.

The AFC Asian Cup has been a tournament is into the quarterfinal stage and the titans of the continent have made it relatively unscathed so far. They are all about to be pitted against each other though.

Hereโ€™s our run down of the tournamentโ€™s last-eight stage, which is set to take place across Friday and Saturday:

1. Tajikistan vs Jordan: Friday, February 2 at 11:30 GMT

Two underrated teams face off in the first quarterfinal. Jordan scrambled to third sport in their group after Bahrain beat them 1-0 in the final round of fixtures in the opening stage, after having overcome Malaysia in their first fixture with a resounding 4-0 win and drawing with South Korea in their second match. Jordan produced an incredible comeback, scoring twice in stoppage time to beat Iraq 3-2 in their round of 16 fixture.

Tajikistan beat Thailand 2-1 in their last-16 tie, having qualified from the group stage for the first time with a second-place finish ahead of China, with whom they drew their opening match, before being beaten by Qatar, but overcoming Lebanon to secure their progress.

Itโ€™s not going to be easy to pick a winner in this one.

2. Australia vs South Korea: Friday, February 2 at 15:30 GMT

One of the two stand-out ties of the quarterfinals pits one of the form teams against one of the favourites. Australia brushed aside their group with opening wins against India and Syria to ensure their progress before a draw with Uzbekistan in the last game. Their round-of-16 tie was another dominant display as they beat Indonesia 4-0.

South Korea were tightly tucked behind Japan as second-favourites for the competition but were made to work hard to reach this stage. A second-place finish in the group pitted them against Saudi Arabia in the tie of the last round and the Koreans were second best for the most part, requiring an injury-time header from Cho Gue-sung to take the game to extra time after Abdullah Radif gave the Saudis a deserved lead just after the break. It was a titanic tussle through to penalties which the Koreans can count themselves lucky to have come out on top of. How much the exploits will have taken out of their legs remains to be seen.

Will South Korea begin to peak in the tournament in this game?

3. Iran vs Japan: Saturday, February 2 at 11:30 GMT

The other meeting of Asian giants in the quarterfinals is a huge battle of east and west. Iran are three-time winners of the Asian Cup, but have been more renowned for their efforts at World Cups in recent decades. Japan are the record winners with five trophies to their name and are the favourites to extend that run.

A comfortable 3-1 win against Bahrain in the last 16 has set Japan up well for this match. However, they were made to sweat somewhat in the group by Iranโ€™s neighbours Iraq, who downed the Japanese 2-1. An injury-time consolation goal was registered by Waturo Endo after Aymen Hussein scored a first-half brace. Iranโ€™s travails have been in reverse to that of their opponents after topping a relatively straightforward group stage with a clean sweep while racking up seven goals. The Iranians were then made to work all the way to penalties by a spirited Syrian side. Iran will also be without their leading scorer, Mehdi Tarmei, who was sent off for a second yellow card in that game.

Will Team Melli have enough in them to see off the Blue Samurai?

4. Qatar vs Uzbekistan: Saturday, February 3 at 15:30 GMT

The hosts and defending champions are strong favourites to progress to the semifinals in this tie. After an underwhelming World Cup on home soil two years ago, Qatar have picked up where they left off in the 2019 Asian Cup final victory against Japan. Akram Afif, who scored the third goal from the spot in that match, has been irresistible at this tournament and seems to offer endless options as well as an inspirational ignition to his sideโ€™s endeavours.

Captain Hassan al-Haydos has also been at the core of everything Qatar have done and he and Afif are on their own personal journey to battle for the golden boat with either one or the other scoring in every game so far including both finding the net to see off Palestine in the last round.

Uzbekistan beat Thailand 2-1 in the last 16 to continue their own incredible story and are unbeaten at the competition so far having drawn their final group stage match with Australia to secure the second spot ahead of the impressive Syria and the sleeping giants, who were expected to awaken, India.

Will the underdogs dethrone the holders?

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