Road to the Semi-finals
Changzhou: With Vietnam joining Korea Republic, Qatar and Uzbekistan in the AFC U23 Championship 2018 semi-finals, join the-AFC.com as we take a look at how each side reached the last four.
AFC U23 Championship semi-final fixtures (kick-off times are local):
Qatar v Vietnam
Venue: Changzhou Olympic Sports Center
Date: January 23
Kick-off: 1600 hrs
Uzbekistan v Korea Republic
Venue: Kunshan Sports Center
Date: January 23
Kick-off: 1930 hrs
Qatar, along with Japan, were the only team to emerge from the group stage with a perfect record. Felix Sanchez’s side started steadily with 1-0 wins over Uzbekistan and Oman, but followed those successes up with a crucial 2-1 victory over host nation China PR, three points which guaranteed them top spot in Group A.
In their quarter-final tussle against Palestine, Almoez Ali gave Al Annabi a healthy 2-0 lead going into the break at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center. Hashim Ali’s second half strike helped Qatar survive a late Palestine revival, as they sealed a 3-2 win to keep alive their title hopes.
Goals scored: 7
Goals conceded: 3
Top goalscorer: Almoez Ali (5 goals and currently tournament leading scorer)
Vietnam’s journey has been a remarkable one. Having qualified for the tournament as one of the best second-placed teams, they began their Group D campaign, despite taking the lead, with a 2-1 loss to Korea Republic. However, a narrow 1-0 win over Australia revived their quarter-final aspirations, and a draw against Syria on Matchday Three, coupled with Australia’s loss to the Koreans, proved to be enough to send them through as group runners-up.
Bashar Resan’s miss from the penalty spot then earned Vietnam a place in the semi-finals, as Park Hang-seo’s charges defeated former champions Iraq 5-3 in a penalty shootout after an extraordinary 3-3 draw following extra-time.
Goals scored: 5
Goals conceded: 5
Top goalscorer: Nguyen Quang Hai (2 goals)
Uzbekistan had a difficult start to their Group A campaign after a 1-0 loss to Qatar on the tournament’s opening day. They have subsequently gone from strength to strength, securing successive 1-0 wins over China and Oman to guarantee a last eight appearance.
Facing defending champions Japan in the quarter-finals, Uzbekistan showcased a dominant display of football and raced to a comfortable three-goal lead within 39 minutes. Jasurbek Yakhshiboev duly sealed a comprehensive 4-0 win with his second goal of the game after the break.
Goals scored: 6
Goals conceded: 1
Top goalscorer: Jasurbek Yakhshiboev (2 goals)
Korea Republic came from a goal down to narrowly beat Vietnam 2-1 in their Group D opener, but a goalless draw with Syria on Matchday Two put their qualification hopes in doubt. However, a rousing 3-2 win against Australia saw them go through to the last eight as group winners.
In their quarter-final showdown with Malaysia, Cho Jae-wan’s wrote himself into the history books when he found the back of the net just 11.35 seconds into the game - the second fastest goal in any AFC tournament. Cho’s historic effort, followed by Han Seung-gyu’s 85th minute winner, helped young Red Devils seal a 2-1 win and a third semi-finals appearance.
Goals scored: 7
Goals conceded: 4
Top goalscorer: Lee Keun-ho (3 goals)