Japan grabbed their first title at the 2016 Asian Men’s U23 Championship. The 16-team tournament was split into four groups of four teams where the top two advance to the quarter-finals. The top three nations qualified to the Olympics. The Asian Men’s U23 Championship was held in four stadiums across Doha, Qatar from January 12th to January 30th 2016.
Group A was won by Qatar as they went undefeated in their group games. The team relied on the scoring prowess of golden ball winner Ahmed Alaa and Abdelkarim Hassan whom combined scored eight out of Qatar’s nine goals. Iran confirmed its spot to the quarter-final where they managed to hold on against China to win 3-2.
Group B was similarly dominated by Japan whom won all three of its group games. The fight for the second spot was a three-way tie between North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Thailand as the three teams all tied each other. North Korea advanced as the second place team because they scored the most goals between the tied teams.
In Group C Iraq and South Korea claimed their spots to the quarter-finals a match early with wins over both Uzbekistan and Yemen. The match between the two to decide who finishes first was a very defensive one. South Korea’s Kim Hyun scored in the 22nd minute and it would look as if South Korea would win in a narrow match until Iraq’s Amjad Hussein scored in the second minute in stoppage time. Despite tying at the final moments South Korea still advanced as the top team due to having a better goal differential.
Group D was a three-way race going into the final match between Australia, Jordan and United Arab Emirates with Vietnam already eliminated. The match between Australia and Jordan ended up being very defensive. Jordan needed only a tie to advance, but Australia required a win to advance. Despite their advances Australia was never able to score its much needed goal and was eliminated by a 0-0 score. United Arab Emirates ended up winning the group with a 3-2 win over Vietnam, in a match that contained two penalty kicks and an own goal.
In the quarter-finals the first match between Japan and Iran went to extra-time after it was tied 0-0. Japan would end up scoring three goals during this period to win the match 3-0. Between Qatar and North Korea it looked as if Qatar would advance 1-0, but So Kyong-Jin scored during stoppage time to send the match to extra-time. The deadlock would be broken in the 92nd minute by Ali Assadalla which sent the hosts to the semi-finals.
The match between South Korea and Jordan was the only match which did not go to extra-time this round as South Korea’s Moon Chang-Jin scored in the 23rd minute to give South Korea the 1-0 win. The final match between United Arab Emirates and Iraq went to extra-time after the score remained 1-1. Iraq’s Mohannad Abdul-Raheem broke the deadlock at the 103rd minute and the nation added an insurance goal late into stoppage time to win the match 3-1.
Japan became the first nation to book a spot to the Olympics with its semi-final win over Iraq. The match was looking to head to extra time when Riki Harawaka scored in the dying seconds of the match, giving the nation a 2-1 victory. Similarly South Korea scored a goal in the 89th minute to give themselves a lead and were able to score another goal in stoppage time as Qatar pressed for an equalizer. South Korea reached the finals and qualified to the Olympics by a score of 3-1.
The final spot for the Olympics was decided in the bronze medal match between Qatar and Iraq. Qatar’s Ahmed Alaa scored the first goal at the 27th minute, but Iraq countered with a late 86th minute goal by Mohannad Abdul-Raheem to send the match into extra-time. Ayman Hussein’s goal at the 109th minute proved to be the difference maker for Iraq as they not only grabbed the bronze medal, but a spot at the Olympics.
In the final match South Korea took a 2-0 lead over Japan. However, two goals over less than two minutes tied the match with just over 20 minutes remaining. Japan’s Takuma Asano scored the deciding goal at the 81st minute to give Japan the title.
Japan and South Korea will be going into the Olympics in hopes of a similar performance to their 2012 campaign where they finished fourth and third respectively. For Iraq this will be their second trip to the Olympic Games, but they too will hope to repeat their performance from 2004 where they finished fourth.
- South Korea
- AFC. AFC U23 Championship – Schedule and Results. Access on January 30 2016.