AFC U23 Championship 2020: Saudi Arabia, Syria progress as Qatar join Japan through the exit doors

AFC U23 Saudi Arabia Syria Qatar

A 1-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their final group match did not hurt Syria as the two sides progressed to the quarterfinals of the AFC U23 Championship 2020 being held in Thailand.

With Syria succumbing to a defeat, Qatar could have booked a knockout berth with a win in their final Group B game, but Felix Dalmas’ side could only manage a 1-1 draw against Japan, who played with 10 men for the whole of the second half.

Both Syria and Saudi Arabia went into the final group stage outing level on four points while Qatar, in third place with two points, needed a win against an already-eliminated Japan as well as a win for either the Syrians or Saudis in the other game in order to ensure a passage to the quarterfinals.

Saudi Arabia almost went ahead in the 24th minute at the Thammasat Stadium when Khalid Al-Ghannam managed to lift the ball over Syrian goalkeeper William Ghannam towards the goal, but he was denied by a goalline clearance from Fares Arnaout.

However, there was nothing to separate the two sides before the half-time break neither at Thammasat nor at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok were Qatar were managing to hold a Japan side, who were playing for nothing but pride, goalless.

Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan had the majority of the possession and chances, but failed to find the back of the net in the first 45 minutes — the closest they came was through Reo Hatate who was denied at close range by Qatar goalkeeper Mohammed Al Bakri.

Qatar’s hopes of a better second half was, however, bolstered by a contentious red card to Japan’s Ao Tanka in the first-half injury time meaning that the Samurai Blue had to play the next 45 minutes with 10 men.

But, it was the 10-man Japan who drew the first blood after the restart when a low drive from Koki Ogawa in the 73rd minute seemed to have blinded the Qatari goalkeeper as it rolled into the goal through the legs of Ahmed Suhail.

Felix Sanchez’s Qatar, though, restored the parity six minutes later when Abdullah Al-Ahrak scored from the spot to make it 1-1.

The news of a goal for Saudi Arabia in the other match, scored by Feras Al-Birakan in the 80th minute to give them the 1-0 lead against Syria, brought a glimmer of hope for Qatari supporters as their side only needed a goal against Japan to book a place in the knockout stages.

However, it was not to be for Qatar as they failed to break through the Japanese defence.

Saudi and Syria follow hosts Thailand, Australia, Korea Republic and defending champions Uzbekistan to the quarterfinals of the AFC U23 Championship. Vietnam, United Arab Emirates and Jordan will fight it out for the two remaining slots in the last eight on Thursday.