Six Arab Teams At AFC U-23 Asian Cup Hope To Qualify For Olympics

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) #AFC U23 ASIAN CUP QNA

Doha, Qatar: The six Arab teams participating in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Qatar 2024 are seeking an impressive performance, aiming to compete for spots in the football competition that would qualify them for the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Paris 2024.

The continental tournament will directly qualify the top three teams for the Olympics, while the fourth-placed team will play a playoff match against the fourth-placed team from the African U-23 Cup, Guinea.

The host team Qatar is hopeful for a third Olympic appearance, with their last appearances being in Barcelona 1992 and Los Angeles 1984 before that. Portuguese coach Helio Sousa relies on experienced players for such tournaments, including striker Ahmed Al Rawi, midfielder Tameem Mansour Miftah, goalkeeper Amir Hassan, and Jassem Jaber.

Qatar's team relies on home advantage and fan support to compete for the title, showcasing Qatar's remarkable rise in Asian football in recent years, winning the Asian Cup in 2019 in the UAE and 2023 in Doha.

Qatar has participated in four previous editions, debuting in 2016 when they hosted the tournament and qualified for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. They reached the semi-finals but lost to South Korea 3-1 and finished fourth after losing 2-0 to Iraq. Qatar returned in 2018 in China, finishing third by defeating South Korea 3-1 in the third-place match. In 2020 in Bangkok, they exited in the group stage, finishing third in Group B.

In the last edition hosted by Uzbekistan in 2022, Qatar exited in the group stage, earning two points from draws against Iran (1-1) and Turkmenistan (2-2), and losing 6-0 to the host Uzbekistan. They aim for a different outcome in the upcoming edition to compete for the title and secure Olympic qualification.

The Jordanian national team for its part is eagerly anticipating its sixth continental appearance in the championship, having never missed any previous editions, achieving its best result in the inaugural edition in 2013 when it lost to the Saudi national team in the semi-finals before securing third place by defeating South Korea.

Under the guidance of their national coach Abdullah Abu Zema, the Jordanian team aims to make an impact in this edition and replicate the success of the senior team, which reached the final of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 before losing to Qatar 3-1, earning respect after delivering an exceptional performance.

During the qualifiers, the Jordanian team scored 12 goals without conceding in their three matches, defeating Brunei Darussalam 9-0, Oman 1-0, and Syria 2-0.

With many options available, the attacking duo of Wisam Al Ryalat and Razzaq Banihani stand out, having scored five goals each during the qualifiers and are expected to lead Jordan's offense in the tournament finals.

As for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) team, which reached the quarter-finals three times (2013, 2016, 2020), this will be their fifth appearance in the championship as they seek to compensate for their group stage exit in the 2022 edition.

The UAE team qualified for the sixth continental edition after topping Group 7 with a goalless draw against China followed by a 3-0 win over India securing first place.

The UAE team will begin their journey in the continental championship next Tuesday when they face South Korea, the 2020 edition champions, in Group B, which also includes Japan, winners of the 2016 edition in Doha, and China, absent from the last edition.

The challenge will be at its toughest in Group C, which sees the presence of two Arab teams, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, competing against Thailand and Tajikistan.

The Iraqi team, winners of the inaugural edition in 2013, will kick off their campaign in the tournament next Tuesday at Al-Janoub Stadium against Thailand, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2020 edition, in a challenging match for coach Radhi Shenaishil's team aiming to replicate the success of their compatriot Hakim Shaker, the champion of the first edition.

The Iraqi team showed impressive results in the qualifiers with a big win over Macau 13-0, a clean 6-0 victory over East Timor, and a 2-2 draw against Kuwait in the final match, securing first place in Group 6.

As for the defending champions, Saudi Arabia, the first team in the history of this championship to lift the cup without conceding a goal in 2022, they will start their title defense campaign on the same day at Khalifa International Stadium against Tajikistan.

Coach Saad Al Shahrani's team aims for a second consecutive title in the tournament, hoping to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics, especially after topping Group 10 against Cambodia, Mongolia, and Lebanon, relying on a plethora of outstanding players including striker Abdullah Raidif who earned the trust of Italian coach Roberto Mancini during the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 and scored against South Korea in the Round of 16, alongside talented 17-year-old forward Talal Hajji.

Group D, which kicks off its matches on April 17, features the Kuwaiti national team alongside Uzbekistan, champions of the 2018 edition and runners-up in the last edition, Vietnam, runners-up of the 2018 edition, and Malaysia, who reached the quarter-finals in the 2018 edition.

The Kuwaiti national team, making its third appearance in the championship after qualifying as one of the top four second-place teams in the qualifiers, will start its campaign in the sixth edition against Vietnam at Al Janoub Stadium, seeking a perfect start under Portuguese coach Emilio Peixe, aiming to present a different image to restore Kuwaiti football to continental competitiveness, especially with the presence of several promising players including standout forward Salman Mohammed.


The Peninsula

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