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Qualifiers - Group F: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan notch key wins

Friday, November 8, 2019
Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-AFC U19 Qualifiers (2)

Al Khobar: Saudi Arabia put four past India, while Uzbekistan edged out Afghanistan as Group F’s big town continued their winning form in the AFC U-19 Championship Uzbekistan 2020 Qualifiers on Friday.

A blistering start helped Saudi Arabia to an emphatic 4-0 win over India, while Uzbekistan faced a sterner test in their 2-0 success against Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan will now meet on Sunday to decide which team will finish as group winners, while Afghanistan and India are now out of the qualification race.

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Afghanistan 0-2 Uzbekistan

Guaranteed to appear at next year’s Finals as hosts, Uzbekistan were kept quiet by a diligent Afghanistan in the early stages, but they went ahead with an excellent free kick from defender Abdumajodiv in the 36th minute.

Having been 10 minutes away from a first-half clean sheet, Afghanistan found themselves two goals behind at the break, with Rakhimkulov delightfully placing the ball into the top corner for Uzbekistan’s second four minutes before the interval.

With their hopes of a first AFC U-19 Championship Finals appearance in more than 40 years in danger of slipping away, Afghanistan sought a way back into the match, but a lack of cut-through in the final third ensured there would no repeat of the 2-2 draw they managed against Uzbekistan at August’s CAFA U-19 Championship.

Uzbekistan look set to battle for the title of group winners when they meet Saudi Arabia on Sunday, while Afghanistan will aim to sign off with a win against India.

India 0-4 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia are a point away from qualifying as group winners after a blistering 30-minute spell helped them to a 4-0 win over now-eliminated India.

Ahmad Al Bassas helped himself to a hat-trick as the Green Falcons lived up to their billing of Asian U-19 champions with four goals in the opening 28 minutes.

The win takes Bandar Khalid Basrayh’s side to the top of Group F with six points and +5 goal difference after two matches, meaning a draw or better against Uzbekistan will be enough to emerge as group winners on Sunday.

India came into the tie hopeful of springing an upset after a competitive performance against Uzbekistan, but they fell behind within two minutes as Mohammed Khalil Marran netted the game’s opening goal.

With the Saudis up and running, the Al Bassas show began, with the 18-year-old netting the first of his goals in the 10th minute, before adding a second just seven minutes later.

The points looked to have been decided with less than a quarter of the match played, but Al Bassas (pictured above, right) wasn’t done yet, completing his hat-trick with another goal in the 28th minute as Saudi Arabia eased to a comprehensive win.

With the points secured and the 2,500-strong home crowd satisfied, Saudi Arabia can look forward to the all-important clash with Uzbekistan, who will return for the Finals regardless of Sunday’s result as competition hosts.

The 11 group winners and four best runners-up will join Uzbekistan in the 2020 Finals.

Tajikistan have already qualified as Group C winners and should Uzbekistan finish either top of Group F of the Qualifiers or are among the best four second-placed teams, the fifth best runners-up will qualify.

Group A of the Qualifiers - featuring Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Kuwait and Pakistan - will be played on November 22-30 in Muscat, Oman.

Photos: Saudi Arabian Football Federation

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