Bangkok: Akira Nishino knows what it takes to deliver when the pressure is on, but as he prepares to lead hosts Thailand into the AFC U23 Championship 2020, the former Japan head coach is under no illusions over the size of the task facing him and his players.
The 64-year-old has one of the most illustrious resumes in Asian football, having broken his home nation’s Olympic qualification drought in 1996, won the AFC Champions League with Gamba Osaka in 2008 and led the Samurai Blue to the knockout rounds at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Now, six months after being appointed head coach of Thailand’s U23 and senior national sides, Nishino enters the Finals of his first continental competition leading his new charges knowing the odds are stacked against him.
We can show we’re Asia’s best, insists Korea Republic's Lee
Seoul: Lee Dong-gyeong believes that the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 provides the perfect opportunity for Korea Republic to prove they are the best team on the Continent.
The East Asians have been one of the strongest teams in the competition over the years, finishing runners-up in 2016 and reaching the semi-finals in 2014 and 2018 but, despite always finishing in the top four sides, they have yet to lift the title.
Korea Republic will again begin the tournament as one of the favourites to be crowned champions and Ulsan Hyundai midfielder Lee is desperate for his country to claim a trophy that has so far eluded them.
Home comforts can prove the difference, insists Supachok
Bangkok: Experienced Buriram United attacker Supachok Sarachak is aiming to fire the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 hosts to new heights at January's Continental competition.
Thailand have appeared in two of three editions of the AFC U23 Championship but, unlike regional rivals Malaysia and Vietnam, they are yet to appear in the knockout stage, suffering group stage eliminations at Qatar 2016 and China PR 2018.
Now, with the tournament hosted on home soil, star forward Supachok believes that it could be Thailand's time to shine in the Continental competition.
Success fuelling Vietnam's determination for further excellence
Hanoi: As 2019 enters its last days, Vietnam can look back on two years of phenomenal development with the runners-up finish in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship followed by numerous successes, climaxing with the Southeast Asian nation ending a 60-year wait for the SEA Games gold medal earlier in December.
Vietnam are now the undisputed kings of ASEAN football, having added the 2019 SEA Games gold to the 2018 AFF Cup title.
The results of the various national teams, explains Vietnam Football Federation Vice-President Dr Tran Quoc Tuan to the-AFC.com, has massively boosted interest in the game and the Southeast Asian nation is determined to take the next step forward.
Kadhim targets title and ‘historic’ Olympic qualification
Baghdad: Iraq captain Ali Kadhim has set his sights on lifting the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 title and following in the footsteps of previous generations by qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
The Lions of Mesopotamia have a proud record in the AFC U23 Championship, winning the inaugural edition – when it was the AFC U-22 Championship – in Oman before finishing third in Qatar two years later to book their ticket to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
While they exited at the group stage in Brazil, the West Asians were unbeaten and secured an excellent scoreless draw with the hosts, who eventually won the competition.
Twelve years earlier in Athens, meanwhile, Iraq narrowly missed out on the bronze medal after finishing fourth following a closely fought 1-0 loss to Italy in the third place play-off.
Qualifying for Tokyo 2020 vital for Australia, says Arnold
Sydney: Qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer is “crucial” for the further development of Australia’s footballing talent says head coach Graham Arnold as the countdown continues towards the 2020 AFC U23 Championship in Thailand next month.
Arnold, who coaches the U23 side as well as the senior side, has been charged with leading his nation’s attempt to qualify for the Olympic football tournament in Japan as the Australians seek to secure a spot at the Finals for the first time since 2008.
Noorafkan: ‘We’re a big team with a big heart and a great dream’
Tehran: Omid Noorafkan believes desire can help the Islamic Republic of Iran achieve their dream at the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 as Team Melli prepare to return to the tournament for the first time since 2016.
The midfielder skippered the Central Asians as they advanced from a qualifying group that featured Iraq, Turkmenistan and Yemen after finishing as one of the best-placed runners up in March to book their ticket to the Continental competition, which also acts as the Olympic Games qualifiers.
Four years ago in Qatar, when Olympic qualification was also on the line, Iran progressed to the quarter-finals before defeat at the hands of Japan. After missing out on the U-23 showpiece in 2018, they return looking to go at least one better this time round a give themselves a chance of appearing at Tokyo 2020.