AFC U-16 Championship: Thailand beaten by Japan in seven-goal thriller

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Thailand were unable to make the most of a flying start as they were beaten 5-2 by Japan in their Group A opener at the AFC U-16 Championship on Thursday.

Only 56 seconds had passed at the UM Arena Stadium in Kuala Lumpur when the Thais broke the deadlock, as Waragon Thongbai ran onto a slide-rule pass from Thanarin Thumsen before squeezing a left-footed shot from an acute angle into the bottom corner.

Nonetheless, it took Japan just five minutes to level the scores after their opponents failed to clear their lines and Waragon scuffed a clearance straight to Ryotaro Araki, who proceeded to lash a shot into the back of the net.

Two minutes later, the Japanese edged ahead with Araki playing a pivotal role once again, nipping in behind the opposition defence to race through before unselfishly laying the ball off to leave Kuraba Kondo with a straightforward tap-in.

In what was turning out to be a hectic opening to the contest, it was then Thailand’s turn to equalise although they were given a helping hand by Riku Handa.

With no apparent danger, Handa dallied in possession on the edge of his own area and was duly dispossessed by Suphanat Mueanta; the Buriram United starlet making sure to punish his opponent with a clinical finish past Taiki Yamada.

But, four minutes after the half-hour mark, the two-time former champions reclaimed the lead with a well-worked move as they switched the ball from left the right and, although Hikaru Naruoka mishit his attempt, it sat up nicely for Araki to stoop low and send a header into the back of the net.

Four minutes before the break, Handa made amends for his earlier error when he pounced on a loose ball and smashed home from close range following more hesistant defending by Thailand.

As fate would have it, the goals dried up in the second half despite the Thais giving it all in search of a way back into the contest.

Still, there was time for one final hurrah from the Japanese in the 90th minute with Ryuma Nakano embarking on an enterprising run through the middle before releasing fellow substitute Shoji Toyama, who – just four minutes after coming on – made no mistake in finishing past Taweesri for an early birthday present on the day before he turns 16.

JAPAN: Taiki Yamada, Kohshiro Sumi, Kaito Suzuki, Riku Handa, Shinya Nakano, Asahi Yokokawa, Hikaru Naruoka, Kakeru Yamauchi, Ryotaro Araki (Ryuma Nakano 82’), Kuraba Kondo (Keita Nakano 63’), Jun Nishikawa (Shoji Toyama 86’).

THAILAND: Anuchid Taweesri, Arthit Bua-ngam, Pongsakorn Innet, Jakkrapong Sanmahung, Chatmongkol Ruengthanarote, Sarawut Saowaros, Thanaret Thumsen (Kittiphong Khetpara 52’), Thanarin Thumsen, Thanakrit Laorkai (Punnawat Chote-jirachaithon 21’), Waragon Thongbai (Apidet Janngam 74’), Suphanat Mueanta.