5 Great AFC U23 Championship Games
Kuala Lumpur: With the 2018 AFC U23 Championship a little over a fortnight away, join the-AFC.com as we look back at five great games from the previous two editions.
Japan 3-3 IR Iran (2014 Group Stage)
Islamic Republic of Iran and Japan opened their AFC U23 Championship campaigns in 2014 with a six-goal thriller in Muscat.
In a match which kept swinging both ways, it was Iran who took the lead through Behnam Barzay in the seventh minute only for Japan's Riki Harakawa to equalise two minutes later with a swerving shot.
Takuma Asano then showed great skill to give the Samurai Blues the lead before Team Melli came roaring back to regain it, through a six-minute brace from Kaveh Rezaei.
There would be yet another twist in the game and it came courtesy of Shoya Nakajima, who scored with a long-ranger to put Japan back on level terms.
Uzbekistan 2-1 China PR (2014 Group Stage)
Both Uzbekistan and China PR failed to progress from the group stage at the 2014 AFC U23 Championship, but the meeting between the two sides did bring about a match to remember.
China PR took the lead with Yang Chaosheng's powerful strike 10 minutes before the break, and it seemed that would be the winner as the match progressed, with Uzbekistan struggling to find their way back.
Yet, just as it appeared that the Chinese had done enough to get the three points, Uzbekistan produced a stunning comeback in injury time.
Egor Krimets headed in the equaliser in the 92nd minute before Igor Sergeev added the double blow just two minutes later. Sergeev was at the right place at the right time to tap home and gift his side the unlikeliest of wins.
DPR Korea 3-3 Saudi Arabia (2016 Group Stage)
After finishing second at the 2014 AFC U23 Championship, Saudi Arabia crashed out in the group stage at the 2016 edition in Qatar. Yet, despite the disappointment, the Green Falcons played out one of the tournament's most memorable matches in their clash with DPR Korea at the Grand Hamad Stadium.
Mohammed Kanno headed in Fahad Al Muwallad's cross just before half-time to cancel out Kim Yong-il's strike for DPR Korea.
It was goals-galore in the second half as DPR Korea regained their advantage with a strike from Yun Il-gwang only for the Saudis to upstage them courtesy of goals from Al Muwallad and Abdulrahman Al Ghamdi.
Leading 3-2 going into the final five minutes, Saudi Arabia looked set for the win but DPR Korea were still not finished; Jang Kuk-chol equalised to grab a point and deny Saudi Arabia what would prove to be crucial two points.
Qatar 1-2 Iraq (2016 Third Place Play-off)
Hosts Qatar and fellow West Asian representatives Iraq experienced heartbreaking exits in their respective semi-finals at the 2016 AFC U23 Championship. However, they still had an opportunity to celebrate with the third place play-off deciding who would get the remaining ticket to the Rio Olympics.
Two of Qatar's best-performing players combined to give Al Annabi the lead mid-way through the first half; Akram Afif's precise ball found tournament top scorer Ahmed Alaa who made no mistake to net his sixth goal.
While Qatar had plenty more chances to extend their advantage, they were unable to use them and they would be punished when Mohannad Abdul-Raheem equalised for Iraq in the 86th minute.
The game then headed into extra time, where Iraq scored once again as Ayman Hussein headed past Muhannad Naim, to break the hearts of the Qataris and earn a bronze medal for the Lions of Mesopotamia.
Japan 3-2 Korea Republic (2016 Final)
The final of the 2016 AFC U23 Championship witnessed a match worthy of the occasion. Traditional rivals Japan and Korea Republic had both sealed qualification for the Olympics by reaching the final but they still had a title and bragging rights to fight for.
Kwon Chang-hoon's deflected shot put Korea Republic in the driving seat during the first half and the Taeguk Warriors doubled their lead right after half time, as Jin Seong-uk scored his first goal of the tournament.
Japan coach Makoto Teguramori sent on Takuma Asano at the hour mark to try and change things; it would prove to be an inspired substitution.
Within minutes, Asano pulled one back with a fine strike before Shinya Yakima headed in Naomichi Ueda's cross to equalise just moments later. Asano then finished off Shoya Nakajima's pass late on to complete a brilliant Japanese comeback and help his side to the title.