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Atawi: I knew from day one we could be champions

Bogor: Saudi Arabia head coach Khalid Abdullah Atawi saluted his AFC U-19 Championship Indonesia 2018-winning squad, who vindicated his long-held belief that they were capable of becoming Asian champions.

Atawi's charges lifted the trophy after a 2-1 win over Korea Republic on Sunday, ending a 26-year Saudi title drought and marking the most significant achievement in the 41-year-old's highly successful two-year reign as head coach.

Reflecting on his side's triumph, the former Al Nojoom boss said he knew from early in his reign as head coach that he had a special group of players.

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"Since before the (October 2017) qualification tournament, I told the players we could go to this championship and come back as the champions," he revealed.

"All the hard work and our belief in our players contributed to the goals we set ourselves, and we achieved every goal in this competition.

"We were the first team to arrive in Indonesia (before this tournament) and we are the last team to leave. We leave as champions."


Leaving as champions is something Saudi Arabia haven't done at an AFC U-19 Championship since 1992, with Korea Republic also the beaten finalists on that occasion.

Atawi had spoken in the lead up to the final about the sense of responsibility he felt to end the drought, and he explained his delight at seeing his side finish the job.

"I'm very, very happy to represent all Saudi people, from the government to the King and the Crown Prince to the entire population," he declared.

"That's why we are very happy with this achievement. For me, there is a lot of feeling that comes along with this achievement."


AFC U-19 Championship 2018 - Final: Korea Republic v Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's win over Korea Republic extends an uninterrupted two-year winning streak in official matches for Atawi's side, who once again enjoyed the lion's share of possession, particularly in a dominant opening half-hour which produced both Saudi goals.

With tournament MVP Turki Al Ammar and a host of other talented players at his disposal, Atawi sees no reason why he side can't continue their run of success at next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup, and beyond.

"In this competition, and today, we have achieved our goals," said the thoughtful tactician.

"Importantly, we won the championship, but we also achieved some of our technical and tactical objectives and we won all the matches without a loss.

"From here, we can look forward. This is just the beginning."

Photos: AFC