Southeast Asia Thailand

Asian Games 2018 – Thai Women’s Team Advance Despite Winless Group Stage

The 11-team Women’s tournament at the 2018 Asian Games has faced criticism due to its slightly unorthodox structure, which has seen Thailand pass into the second round despite losing both of their group stage games against Vietnam and Japan.

Drawn into the toughest group of the competition by far, Thailand featured in the tournaments the only group of three. The remaining two groups were made up of four teams each, completing the lineup for this odd number of participating nations.

This group stage gives way to a quarter-final round, meaning that only three teams are eliminated in the group stage. The imposition of a “third place rule,” as found in the men’s tournament ranks all of the third-placed sides across the three groups and determines which pass through based on total points accumulated, and then goal difference as a tiebreaker.

However, given the odd number of teams in the final group, the tournament rules stipulate that games against the lowest ranked teams in each group do not count towards their final ranking. This effectively puts all of the third-placed teams on zero points, as naturally all of their accumulated points would come from the team ranked below them in the table.

This effectively sets goal difference as the only determinant for the ranking of third-placed teams, allowing Thailand to progress due to their 2-0 and 3-2 group stage losses giving them a superior goal difference to Indonesia, who lost 4-0 to Chinese Taipei and 12-0 to South Korea, leaving the hosts with a final goal difference of -16 as their 6-0 demolition of the Maldives was ignored.

Whether or not this format is fair to all teams involved remains a controversial issue, but more clarity should be achieved as the tournament transitions into the knockout stage.