U19s reach AFC semifinal; qualify to U20 World Cup
Jakarta: Qatar progressed through to the semi-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship Indonesia 2018 on Sunday thanks to a 7-3 extra-time win over Thailand that also saw them book a spot at next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Head coach Bruno Pinheiro’s charges, AFC U-19 champions in 2014, were made to dig deep by their Southeast Asian opponents as a quartet of late goals saw them advance to the last four where they will meet the winners of Monday’s quarter-final tie between Korea Republic and Tajikistan.
The late drama rounded off a classic evening of football, one which had swung one way and then the other before Qatar struck to seal a sensational victory and leave Thailand to rue what could have been.
After a cautious opening to proceedings at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, it was Qatar who struck first, Hashim Ali making the most of Anuson Jaiphet’s wayward defensive pass to curl a sublime shot beyond Thailand goalkeeper Nopphon Lakhonphon in the 13th minute.
Qatar wasted little time in doubling their advantage, this time Nasser Al Yazidi – starting his first game of the competition – scoring with aplomb following Abdulrasheed Umaru’s excellent run eight minutes later.
At the scene of their remarkable 6-5 group stage defeat of host nation Indonesia, Qatar continued to press as first Al Yazidi fired narrowly over the bar from an angle and then Khaled Saleh forced Nopphon into a fine sprawling save shortly after the half-hour mark.
In the final minutes of what had been an excellent first period for the Qataris, Saleh went close again with a driven effort from distance, before Thailand spurned their first genuine chance of the game, Salah Zakaria diving at the feet of Korawich Tasa when the striker was clean through on goal. Thailand refused to buckle after the break, and they reduced the deficit within three minutes of the restart as Korawich Tasa raced onto Kittipong Sansanit’s astute pass and planted a firm shot past Zakaria.
Sensing a way back into the game was there for the taking, Thailand dramatically drew level on 61 minutes as Ahmed Al Minhali’s clearance fell to Sakunchai Saengthopho who brilliantly found the top corner from 20 yards.
Thirapak Prueangna then lashed home Ekanit Panya’s delivery to put Thailand ahead with only 10 minutes remaining, before Ahmed Suhail found the net with a sublime free-kick to throw Qatar a lifeline and send the game to extra-time.
With both sides understandably tired, Qatar duly regained the advantage on 99 minutes, Umaru sliding the ball past Nopphon after being found by Mohammed Waad Abdulwahhab to register his sixth goal of the campaign.
Khaled Mansour then struck within the opening seconds of the second period of extra-time, Umaru added a sixth and Youssef Ayman bagged another in the final seconds to eventually seal Qatar’s victory and edge his side closer to continental glory and guarantee themselves a fourth appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.