Preview: Stars of tomorrow to know their challengers
Kuala Lumpur: The stage is set for the 16 teams who will find out their opponents when the AFC U-16 Championship 2018 draw takes place in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
The tournament will take place on September 20-October 7 with Malaysia the hosts.
The biennial competition doubles up as a qualifier for the FIFA U17 World Cup 2019 where the top four teams will represent Asia in the spectacle in Peru. the-AFC.com takes a closer look at the cast of the AFC U16 Championship 2018.
The AFC U16 Championship 2018 draw will take place on Thursday at 3pm (Malaysian time)
POT 1: Malaysia (hosts), Iraq, Islamic Republic of Iran, DPR Korea
POT 2: Japan, Oman, Vietnam, Korea Republic
POT 3: Yemen, India, Thailand, Australia
POT 4: Tajikistan, Jordan, Afghanistan, Indonesia
HOW THE TEAMS QUALIFIED
Malaysia: As host nation, Malaysia qualified automatically for the AFC U16 Championship and they finished second in qualification behind group winners Japan. This will be their fifth appearance in the tournament and their best finish was making the quarter-finals in 2014.
Iraq: The defending champions beat Islamic Republic of Iran in the 2016 final to win their maiden title. The Iraqis qualified as group winners ahead of India and have made the top four in 1985, 1988, 2012, 2016.
Islamic Republic of Iran: After losing out on penalties to Iraq in the final of the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, Islamic Republic of Iran are set to embark on their 11th campaign. Coming in first in their qualification group ahead of Afghanistan, the 2008 champions have come in second twice in 2000 and 2016.
DPR Korea: Two-time champions DPR Korea breezed through their qualification campaign undefeated and will be making their 11th appearance in the tournament. They have finished in the top four on seven occasions - 1986, 1992, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2016.
Japan: The Samurai Blue scored a staggering 35 goals in qualification and will be making their 15th appearance in the competition. Japan who won the title twice in 1994 and 2006 finished fourth in the 2016 edition.
Oman: Champions in 1996 and 2000, Oman qualified for the competition as the second best runners-up following victories against Maldives (8-0) and Syria (6-0) and 1-0 defeat against Tajikistan.
Vietnam: The 2016 quarter-finalists’ best finish in the competition came in 2000 where they played hosts - taking up fourth place. The Golden Dragons qualified as group runners-up for the 2018 edition with wins against Cambodia (5-2), Mongolia (9-0) and 3-1 defeat against Australia.
Korea Republic: After failing to get past the group stages in 2016, Korea Republic who qualified as group winners, will be making their 14th appearance in the competition. The Taeguk Warriors’ best achievement was winning the titles in 1986 and 2002. They have made the top four on five occasions.
Yemen: Runners-up in 2002 after losing 5-3 to Korea Republic on penalties, Yemen qualified for the tournament as group champions and will be making their fifth appearance.
India: The Indian Colts will be making their eight appearance in the tournament. India’s best finish came in 2002 when they lost 3-1 in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Korea Republic. India earned their qualification ticket as the best runners-up.
Thailand: Champions in 1998, Thailand made the top four in two other occasions – 1985 and runners-up behind Oman in 1996. The War Elephants qualified as the third best second-placed team and will be making their 11th appearance in the competition.
Australia: Having a fairly easy qualification, Australia claimed top spot in their group with wins against - Mongolia (10-1), Cambodia (5-0) and Vietnam (3-1). It will be their sixth appearance in the tournament and have managed the top four on two occasion – in 2010 and 2014.
Tajikistan: The last time Tajikistan featured in the competition was back in 2010 where they did not made it past the group stage - finishing bottom with three goals and conceding 17. Ironically, it will be only their third appearance in the tournament following their impressive route to qualification where they scored 17 goals and conceded none to top their group ahead the likes of Oman and Syria.
Jordan: Following their tough qualification, Jordan impressed many as they topped their group ahead of Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Bahrain. They will be making their third appearance in the competition after making the quarter-finals in 2010 and the group stage in 1990.
Afghanistan: Debutants Afghanistan qualified for the competition as the sixth best second-placed team, denying Saudi Arabia of a spot with a marginal goal difference. They posted wins against Krygz Republic (3-1) and Bhutan (3-0) but fell 2-1 to group winners Islamic Republic of Iran.
Indonesia: Former semi-finalists, Indonesia achieved a fourth-placed finish back in 1990 and did not get past the group stages in 2008 and 2010. However they qualified as group winners for the competition, netting a total of 25 goals in winning all their matches against Thailand (1-0), Timor-Leste (3-1), Laos (3-0) and Northern Mariana Islands (18-0).