2020 AFC U23 Championship: Thailand survive Iraq scare to reach quarter-finals

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Hosts Thailand have survived an almighty scare against Iraq to claim a 1-1 draw on Tuesday to reach the quarter-finals of the 2020 AFC U23 Championship.

The Thais got off to a dream start at the Rajamangala Stadium in the 6th minute when Jaroensak Wonggorn found the bottom corner from the spot with a clinical finish beyond Ali Kadhim’s despairing dive, after they had been awarded an early penalty for a handball by Najm Shwan inside the area.

But, with star men Supachok Sarachat and Supachai Jaided on the bench, the Thais eventually allowed their opponents to gain the ascendancy in the contest and it seemed only a matter of time before they equalised.

That duly arrived four minutes into the break when Mohammed Mezher drilled a low cross in from the right to Murad Mohammed.

AFC U23 Championship Highlights – Thailand vs Iraq

Although Thailand midfielder Kanarin Thawornsak did brilliantly to deny him a shooting opportunity, the ball broke to Mohammed Nassif and he made no mistake in finishing past Korraphat Nareechan.

Mohammed Nassif celebrates his equaliser put it was ultimately futile for Iraq.

As the game entered its closing stages, it looked like the Thais – having brought on Supachai and Supachok – would be able to hold out for the remainder of the contest.

Nonetheless, in the 90th minute, Iraq had one final chance to snatch the win – and a place in the quarters – when Mustafa Mohammed’s right-wing cross picked out Murad unmarked inside the area.

The Iraq winger did all that could have been asked for him with a downward header that seemed destined to find the back of the net, only for Korraphat to pull off an outstanding save from point-blank range to rescue the Thais.

With the point, Thailand – who entered this edition of the tournament without even a single win to their name – now progress as Group A runners-up along with winners Australia, who held on to the top spot with a 1-1 draw against Bahrain.

THAILAND: Korraphat Nareechan, Peerawat Akkratum, Thitawee Aksornsri, Saringkarn Promsupa, Thitathorn Aksornsri, Kanarin Thawornsak (Kritsada Kaman 84’), Wisarut Imura (Supachok Sarachat 56’), Jaroensak Wonggorn, Worachit Kanitsribampen, Suphanat Mueanta, Ben Davis (Supachai Jaided 56’).

IRAQ: Ali Kadhim, Mustafa Mohammed, Abdulabbas Ayad (Muntadher Sattar 62’), Najm Shwan, Alaa Raad, Murad Mohammed, Sadeq Zamil, Mohammed Mezher, Ali Qasim (Hussein Jabbar 46’), Mohammed Ridha (Omer Assi 85’), Mohammed Nassif.