Kuala Lumpur: There were celebrations across Asia as titles were won and World Cup places were confirmed. The-AFC.com relives an action-packed third quarter of 2017.
As club football across the continent paused for the summer, attention turned to the AFC Futsal Club Championship which took place in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with 14 teams battling for the title.
Chonburi Bluwave emerged as champions after 10 days of action in the courts. The Thai side stormed through their group with a 9-0 thumping of Lebanon’s Bank of Beirut and a 5-0 win over Uzbekistan’s Almalyk.
A 4-2 victory over Japan’s Shriker Osaka in the quarter-final was followed by a 6-0 success against hosts Thai Son Nam to set up a repeat of the 2013 final against IR Iran’s Giti Pasand Isfahan.
Just as with three years earlier, Chonburi Bluwave won the final.
However, this time they did not need to go to a penalty shootout as a Suphawut Thueanklang hat-trick sealed a 3-2 win for the Thais who lifted their second title in the competition.
August marked the return of the AFC Champions League after a three-month hiatus.
The wheels resumed their motion with an all-Chinese clash in the first leg of the quarter-finals as Shanghai SIPG recorded an emphatic 4-0 win over Ghangzhou Evergrande while eventual champions Urawa Red Diamonds suffered a setback with a 1-3 defeat against domestic foes Kawasaki Frontale.
Over in the west, there were draws for Saudi Arabian sides Al Hilal and Al Ahli at Al Ain and Persepolis respectively.
While in the AFC Cup, Istiklol of Tajikistan and JSW Bengaluru of India put one foot in the inter-zone play-off final with the former defeating Filipino side Ceres-Negro 4-0 and Bengaluru cruising to a 3-0 win over DPR Korea’s 4.25 in the inter-zone play-off semi-finals first leg.
On the international front, it was party time in Saitama as Japan became the second Asian side to confirm their place in the FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia when they defeated Group B rivals Australia 2-0 to seal their qualification to the Finals with a game to spare.
Goals from Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi took the Samurai Blue to 20 points on top of the group, leaving the Socceroos to battle Saudi Arabia for the second direct qualification spot on the final matchday.
Australia’s 0-2 defeat in Japan set up a thrilling final matchday in the race to Russia 2018, with Saudi Arabia challenging for the direct qualification spot and the UAE in the running for the play-off place.
In Group A, IR Iran had already qualified while Korea Republic, Uzbekistan and dark horses Syria had to wait until Matchday 10 to learn their fates.
With all six matches taking place on the same day, Australia did their part by defeating Thailand 2-1, but had to hope for a Saudi Arabia slip at home against Japan.
The Green Falcons, however, were in sharp form as they edged their visitors to confirm their return to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 2006 and consign Australia to the play-offs.
The Socceroos’ would face Syria in the play-off after a last-minute Omar Al Somah goal gave the Qasioun Eagles a 2-2 draw in Iran to secure a third-place finish.
The result also meant that the 1-1 draw in Uzbekistan was enough for Korea Republic to join Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia in the World Cup finals.
DPR Korea may have had to watch their southern neighbours progress to the FIFA World Cup, but two weeks later in Thailand, they had the happier set of fans as they defeated Korea Republic to win the 2017 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship.
The Young Koreans dominated the history of the competition, reaching the final of the previous five editions, and they showed their superiority by recording the largest win of the 2017 tournament in their opening match with a 9-0 triumph over Bangladesh.
They then went on to beat Australia 7-0 before suffering their only defeat of the tournament at the hands of Japan, losing 1-2.
A narrow 1-0 win against China PR in the semi-final set up a final against Korea Republic.
The Northerners emerged 2-0 winners with goals from Ru Su-jong and Kim Kyong-yong settling the final to win a third AFC U16 Women’s Championship title for DPR Korea.
An eventful September saw Al Hilal and Persepolis advance to the AFC Champions League semi-finals with wins over Al Ain and Al Ahli. A Carlos Eduardo hat-trick in Riyadh was the highlight of the second leg in West Asia.
Historic comebacks were in order in East Asia as Urawa Red Diamonds reversed a 1-3 first leg deficit to beat Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 in the second leg and progress to the next round.
Guangzhou Evergrande were less fortunate, despite their best efforts.
A brace each from Ricardo Goulart and Alan meant the match ended 4-0, matching Shanghai SIPG’s win in the first leg, and the teams could not be separated by an extra 30 minutes as Hulk and Goulart exchanged strikes.
It was the latter who failed to convert from the spot as Shanghai SIPG won 5-4 in a penalty shootout to set up a semi-final clash against Urawa Red Diamonds.