Sunday, 18 April 2021 09:30 GMT

Qatar gear up for Uzbekistan in opener


(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The AFC U-23 Championship in China begins tomorrow, with Qatar taking on Uzbekistan in a Group A match tomorrow. Here is a look at the four teams from Group A.

Qatar
Best finish: Fourth (2016)
How they qualified: Winners Group C
It is testament to the quality in Qatar's youth set up that a fourth-place finish at the 2016 AFC U23 Championship on home soil was deemed a disappointment as defeat in the third-place play-off to Iraq meant they failed to qualify for the Olympics. The core of Felix Sanchez's squad for the 2018 edition is formed by players who were part of the 2016 campaign and have been coached by Sanchez since the U-19 category.
Led by the likes of Akram Afif and Ahmed Moein, this group of players first shone at the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship, where substitute Afif headed the winner in a 1-0 victory against DPR Korea in the final and skipper Moein was named the tournament's MVP.
The strong performance at the 2016 AFC U23 Championship was proof of the gradual progress of a generation that is key to Qatar's plans of developing a strong squad for 2022, when they will host the FIFA World Cup.
In addition to Afif and Moein, the squad features Almoez Ali, who has scored for Al Duhail in the AFC Champions League, and Assim Madibo, who currently plays alongside Afif for Belgian first division side KAS Eupen. Placed in Group C of the qualifiers, Qatar defeated Turkmenistan and India, before drawing with Syria to secure top spot and automatic qualification for the finals.

China PR
Best finish: Group stage (2014, 2016)
How they qualified: As hosts
Having exited at the group stage of the past two editions of the competition without picking up a point, China will be seeking an improvement this time out on home soil. After a disappointing campaign in Oman in 2014, the East Asians were intent on a better performance at the second edition in Qatar in 2016. But had a tough time, losing all their league matches.
Despite qualifying as hosts for the 2018 edition, China also took part in Group J of the qualification campaign in Phnom Penh. A 0-0 draw against hosts Cambodia was followed by a 2-0 win over the Philippines before China impressively saw off defending champions Japan 2-1 to top the standings. The goalscorers were two players who could well be leading lights at China 2018, Shanghai SIPG winger Wei Shihao and Beijing Renhe defender Deng Hanwen, who have both been capped for the senior team. Leading the line ahead of them is likely to be Werder Bremen loanee Zhang Yuning.
Uzbekistan
Best finish: Group stage (2014, 2016)
How they qualified: Winners Group D
Uzbekistan qualified for the AFC U23 Championship by topping Group D with a 100 percent record after beating hosts UAE 2-0 in Al Ain. Despite having progressed to the two previous editions, the Uzbeks have yet to reach the knockout stages, but will hope with former Uzbekistan head coach Ravshan Khaydarov in charge, things can be different this time.
Two years ago in Doha, the young White Wolves were knocked out in the group stages. This time round in the Group D qualifying matches in the UAE, Uzbekistan won their opening game 3-1 against Lebanon and then beat Nepal 2-0 to set up a winner-takes-all clash with the hosts. Uzbek defender Islomjon Kobilov headed in Jasurbek Yakhshiboev's corner on 67 minutes as Uzbeks made sure of their qualification for the AFC U23 Championship with a second from Javokir Sidikov.
Oman
Best finish: Group stage (2014)
How they qualified: Winners Group A
Hosts of the inaugural edition of the competition, Oman could be among the surprise contenders in China as they aim to build on their impressive qualifying campaign where they topped Group A, ahead of powerhouse Iran. Four years ago on home soil, the Sultanate defeated Myanmar 4-0 in the opening game but exited after defeats to Jordan and Korea Republic, before missing out on the 2016 AFC U23 Championship.
In the qualifying tournament for this edition, in the Kyrgyz Republic, Hamad al-Azani's team were led by promising forwards Muhsin al-Ghassani and Jameel ak-Yahmadi. In their opening game against the hosts, Oman won 5-1 victory. Against Iran, it was the double act of al-Yahmadi and al-Ghassani who came up with the goals to clinch a 2-0 win and seal Oman's return to the finals for the first time since hosting the inaugural edition.


Qatar under-23 players train in Changzhou, China yesterday.Qatar gear up for Uzbekistan in opener
The AFC U-23 Championship in China begins tomorrow, with Qatar taking on Uzbekistan in a Group A match tomorrow. Here is a look at the four teams from Group A.
Qatar
Best finish: Fourth (2016)
How they qualified: Winners Group C
It is testament to the quality in Qatar's youth set up that a fourth-place finish at the 2016 AFC U23 Championship on home soil was deemed a disappointment as defeat in the third-place play-off to Iraq meant they failed to qualify for the Olympics. The core of Felix Sanchez's squad for the 2018 edition is formed by players who were part of the 2016 campaign and have been coached by Sanchez since the U-19 category.
Led by the likes of Akram Afif and Ahmed Moein, this group of players first shone at the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship, where substitute Afif headed the winner in a 1-0 victory against DPR Korea in the final and skipper Moein was named the tournament's MVP.
The strong performance at the 2016 AFC U23 Championship was proof of the gradual progress of a generation that is key to Qatar's plans of developing a strong squad for 2022, when they will host the FIFA World Cup.
In addition to Afif and Moein, the squad features Almoez Ali, who has scored for Al Duhail in the AFC Champions League, and Assim Madibo, who currently plays alongside Afif for Belgian first division side KAS Eupen. Placed in Group C of the qualifiers, Qatar defeated Turkmenistan and India, before drawing with Syria to secure top spot and automatic qualification for the finals.

China PR
Best finish: Group stage (2014, 2016)
How they qualified: As hosts
Having exited at the group stage of the past two editions of the competition without picking up a point, China will be seeking an improvement this time out on home soil. After a disappointing campaign in Oman in 2014, the East Asians were intent on a better performance at the second edition in Qatar in 2016. But had a tough time, losing all their league matches.
Despite qualifying as hosts for the 2018 edition, China also took part in Group J of the qualification campaign in Phnom Penh. A 0-0 draw against hosts Cambodia was followed by a 2-0 win over the Philippines before China impressively saw off defending champions Japan 2-1 to top the standings. The goalscorers were two players who could well be leading lights at China 2018, Shanghai SIPG winger Wei Shihao and Beijing Renhe defender Deng Hanwen, who have both been capped for the senior team. Leading the line ahead of them is likely to be Werder Bremen loanee Zhang Yuning.
Uzbekistan
Best finish: Group stage (2014, 2016)
How they qualified: Winners Group D
Uzbekistan qualified for the AFC U23 Championship by topping Group D with a 100 percent record after beating hosts UAE 2-0 in Al Ain. Despite having progressed to the two previous editions, the Uzbeks have yet to reach the knockout stages, but will hope with former Uzbekistan head coach Ravshan Khaydarov in charge, things can be different this time.
Two years ago in Doha, the young White Wolves were knocked out in the group stages. This time round in the Group D qualifying matches in the UAE, Uzbekistan won their opening game 3-1 against Lebanon and then beat Nepal 2-0 to set up a winner-takes-all clash with the hosts. Uzbek defender Islomjon Kobilov headed in Jasurbek Yakhshiboev's corner on 67 minutes as Uzbeks made sure of their qualification for the AFC U23 Championship with a second from Javokir Sidikov.
Oman
Best finish: Group stage (2014)
How they qualified: Winners Group A
Hosts of the inaugural edition of the competition, Oman could be among the surprise contenders in China as they aim to build on their impressive qualifying campaign where they topped Group A, ahead of powerhouse Iran. Four years ago on home soil, the Sultanate defeated Myanmar 4-0 in the opening game but exited after defeats to Jordan and Korea Republic, before missing out on the 2016 AFC U23 Championship.
In the qualifying tournament for this edition, in the Kyrgyz Republic, Hamad al-Azani's team were led by promising forwards Muhsin al-Ghassani and Jameel ak-Yahmadi. In their opening game against the hosts, Oman won 5-1 victory. Against Iran, it was the double act of al-Yahmadi and al-Ghassani who came up with the goals to clinch a 2-0 win and seal Oman's return to the finals for the first time since hosting the inaugural edition.


Qatar under-23 players train in Changzhou, China yesterday.

Last updated: January 08 2018 12:22 AM

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