Malaysia, Indonesia among ASEAN quartet still in the hunt but how promising are their AFC Asian Cup 2023 chances?

With three points from their opening two third-round qualifiers, Malaysia remain in a decent position to qualify for AFC Asian Cup 2023 heading into Tuesday's final tie against Bangladesh. How Foo Yeen/Getty Images

With two games down and one to go in the final round of qualifiers for AFC Asian Cup 2023, plenty of teams are still in the running to reach the continent's biggest footballing stage -- including a quartet of Southeast Asian prospects.

While Singapore, Cambodia and Myanmar saw their hopes come to an end on Saturday, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines are still in with a chance ahead of Tuesday's final set of matches.

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Only the group winners are guaranteed an automatic berth at next year's tournament, but five of the six runners-up will advance - meaning only one second-placed team will have the misfortunate of missing out.

Simply put, even as runners-up, a six-point haul with a relatively healthy goal difference should be enough.

Here, we take a closer look at how promising the situation looks for each of the four ASEAN teams still in the running.


Despite Saturday's 1-0 loss to Jordan, Indonesia had already put themselves in a strong position with a surprise come-from-behind 2-1 win over former champions Kuwait in their opening game.

Another positive for Shin Tae-yong's charges is the fact that they have gotten their tougher two fixtures out of the way, and will head into their final Group A clash against Nepal as massive favourites.

Initially, the biggest question mark over the Indonesians heading into the campaign was the ability of a talented but precocious group's ability to handle the pressure, although they have thus far performed admirably and without fear.

They could yet find themselves in a three-way tie for top spot should Kuwait defeat Jordan in Tuesday's other Group A tie, which would then see the rankings be decided by head-to-head record, but the onus will be on Indonesia to go all out for a big win against the Nepalese to give themselves the best chance of advancing.

Verdict: 7/10. Indonesia have possibly already exceeded expectations by picking up a win from their opening two games to put themselves in a very decent position.


While it has been far from a convincing campaign so far, especially given they featured at the Asian Cup last time out in 2019, Philippines are still firmly in the running to secure back-to-back appearances.

They should have picked up three points against Yemen in their Group B opener, and would have been expected to beat Mongolia by a far bigger margin than the 1-0 victory on Saturday -- which also only arrived courtesy of a last-gasp winner from debutant Gerrit Holtmann.

The Azkals will finish off with their toughest tie in the form of Palestine, who have scored six goals and conceded none in their two victories so far.

Although Philippines' displays have not been dominant so far, they do boast individual talent -- especially with the introduction of Holtmann -- and could easily rise to the occasion in a one-off tie, potentially even claiming top spot at the expense of the Palestinians.

Verdict: 6/10. The Azkals have flattered to deceive so far but they could easily avoid having to worry about being one of the best runners-up by beating Palestine and advancing as Group B winners.


Arguably Southeast Asia's strongest contenders in the qualifiers, Thailand remain perfect after two games with a maximum six-point haul following victories over Maldives and Sri Lanka.

They do however finish their Group C campaign against formidable opponents in Uzbekistan, who have appeared at the last seven Asian Cups and boast one of the continent's most-feared strikers in Roma man Eldor Shomurodov -- who bagged a hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Maldives on Saturday.

The War Elephants could not have done much more heading into the final set of games, apart from perhaps adding more goals along the way.

A draw against the Uzbeks will be enough but they must be careful to avoid a heavy defeat, which would reduce their goal difference and drag them back into the runners-up dogfight.

Nonetheless, the Thais do boast considerable experience and a savvy tactician in Alexandre Polking, and should have what it takes to successfully negotiate their final hurdle.

Verdict: 8/10. The only risk for Thailand lies in the fact that they face a difficult final test. There can be no faulting what the War Elephants have already accomplished in their first two qualifiers.


Like Indonesia, Malaysia made a brilliant start in Group E with an upset of Turkmenistan but were then brought back down to earth on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to Bahrain -- a result that was hardly humbling given the quality of the opposition.

Similarly, the Malaysians have -- on paper, at least - what should be their easiest test for last, and they should be looking to produce a dominant display against minnows Bangladesh.

Still boasting a positive goal difference, anything more than a three-goal win for Harimau Malaya should put them in an excellent position to qualify but there is also an obvious need to avoid any complacency from creeping in.

After a disappointing group-stage elimination at AFF Suzuki Cup 2020, which led to the departure of former coach Tan Cheng Hoe, Malaysia are already showing signs of improvement under Kim Pan-gon.

Qualifying for the Asian Cup for the first time since 2007 -- when they co-hosted the tournament -- would go a long way in reinvigorating Malaysian football.

Verdict: 7/10. It might not be a perfect campaign so far but one win from the first two games would perhaps more than they could have hoped for. They must now keep up their end of the bargain by beating Bangladesh convincingly, and hope it is enough for them to march on.