AFC U23 Championship
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Qatar's Sanchez delighted, Korea Republic's Kim optimistic

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kunshan: Felix Sanchez credited his players’ professionalism as Qatar claimed the bronze medal at the AFC U23 Championship 2018 following their 1-0 win over Korea Republic in the third place play-off on Friday.

Akram Afif scored the only goal of the game while Yousof Hassan saved Hwang Hyun-soo’s second half penalty to ensure the Qataris did not return to the Gulf state empty-handed at the end of their three-week stint in China.

“Today was a difficult one because nobody likes to play this game, but the players showed they were big professionals and they showed their commitment,” said Sanchez. 

“We played a top team and they could have been in the final. We got the result and it was very tough, like all of our six games. We’re satisfied. We won five and drew one, which we lost on penalties.”

Sanchez was at the helm two years ago when the Qataris lost in the third place playoff to Iraq – missing out on a place at the 2016 Olympic Games in the process – but as the country continues to build for the future, the Spanish coach was satisfied with his team’s achievements during China 2018. 

“We are leaving here with a good feeling,” he said. “We are happy with the result, especially because of the team we played against. But we are also a little sad because we would have liked to be playing tomorrow. 

“But I’m very proud of the 23 players here. They worked so hard and were preparing for so long for the tournament.”

By contrast, the tournament ended on a disappointing note for the Koreans, who had impressed throughout the competition only to lose back-to-back games to finish fourth.

But coach Kim Bong-gil will leave China confident his players have gained invaluable experience during their three-week involvement in the competition.

“We had our last game and every single game has been difficult but the players did their best,” he said. “I hope it will be a great experience for our players.

“Our players were very eager to win this game. We wanted to win third place but we couldn’t take our opportunities. But I hope it will be a great experience to help them grow up.”

Many of the players present in China are expected to represent Korea Republic at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August, and Kim is confident his squad will see the benefits in Indonesia later this year.

“Prior to the Asian Games in August our players have learned a lot from this tournament,” he said. “They have learned how to win and be organised to play as a team. I think this has been a good opportunity for them.”

Photos: AFC