U23s ease past Afghanistan in opening AFC qualifier
DOHA: A red-hot opening half-hour helped Qatar climb to the top of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 qualifying Group A with a convincing 2-0 win over Afghanistan on home soil.
Two goals in the opening 35 minutes proved insurmountable for Afghanistan, as the Qataris made a successful first step in their bid to return to the Finals, where they finished third in 2018.
Boasting a strong line-up featuring AFC Asian Cup-winning stars Bassam Al Rawi and Tarek Salman, Qatar were in the ascendancy from the beginning, and they took lead after a marauding run from Abdurahman Moustafa set up Hassan Ahmad Palang for a close range finish in the 13th minute at Doha’s Aspire pitch today.
Albert Caballeria’s men continued to pile on the pressure, and they doubled their lead when Al Duhail’s Abdullah Al Ahrak converted a penalty kick 10 minutes before half-time.
Afghanistan fought valiantly after the break, but they were unable to make any inroads on the scoresheet, and they suffered a late blow when captain Amanullah Sardari was shown a second yellow card in the third minute of stoppage time.
Earlier on the day, Oman also emerged as winners thanks to a single Yousuf Al Malki goal against Nepal at the same venue.
Qatar will look to continue their strong start against Nepal on Sunday, while Afghanistan need a result against Oman to keep their qualification hopes alive.
The 11 group winners and four best second-placed teams will qualify for the championship, with hosts Thailand receiving automatic qualification.
In the event that Thailand finish among the qualified teams to the Finals (either top of the group or one of the four best second-placed teams), the next (fifth) second-placed team in the ranking among all groups will qualify instead.
The Qualifiers sees 43 teams jostling for 15 spots for next January’s championship, which will also serve as the qualifying round for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. With Japan having confirmed their Olympic berth by virtue of being the host, three spots will be up for grabs in the AFC U23 Championship in Thailand.