Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Kuala Lumpur: As the AFC U-23 Championship 2018 approaches, the-AFC.com takes a look at the thrilling final that capped a fantastic tournament two years ago.
Takuma Asano can rarely have made an impact quite like the one he had on a thrilling final at the end of the 2016 AFC U23 Championship in Qatar.
Coming off the bench with just 30 minutes to play, the pacey Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker sparked a remarkable revival for Makoto Teguramori’s team as Japan lifted the trophy for the first time against their great rivals from Korea Republic.
Two-up with just over a quarter of the game to play thanks to goals from Kwon Chang-hoon and Jin Sung-wook, Shin Tae-yong’s team appeared to be cruising to the title before Teguramori turned to his bench.
It was to prove to be a crucial intervention, with Asano the joker in Japan’s pack.
Within six minutes of coming on, the 21-year-old had already halved the deficit with a first-time finish. Two minutes later, the scores were level when Shinya Yajima – who had set up Asano’s opener – headed home the equaliser.
And with nine minutes to go the reversal was complete when Asano slotted Naomichi Ueda’s through-ball into the Korean goal to send the Japanese bench delirious.
“It was a really dramatic game and it’s great we won the Asian title,” said Teguramori. “I told the players today that we should show everyone our bravery and move the Japanese fans. I’m really glad that we have achieved this objective.”
It was a fittingly thrilling end to a tournament that boasted quality and drama in equal measure as the 16 nations went head-to-head in the battle for one of the confederation’s three places at the finals of the Olympic football tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
Japan and Korea Republic secured their tickets for Rio with wins over Iraq and Qatar respectively in the semi-finals, leaving the pair to meet in the third place play-off to determine the destination of the final berth in Brazil.