Eastern Asian teams stole the limelight as Korea DPR met Japan in this year's AFC U-17 Championship final, and it was the islanders who ran out 4-2 winners after extra-time at Singapore's Jalan Besar Stadium.
There was, in fact, double cause for celebration among the Japanese contingent, with the two-times champions' Yoichiro Kakitani bagging the tournament's Most Valuable Player award thanks to some sparkling performances over the course of the competition.
The champions did not, though, hold a monopoly on success, with Korea DPR, Syria and the tournament's surprising packages Tajikistan all joining Japan in booking a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea Republic.
All four had reached the semi-final stage, where the two Eastern Asian sides emerged victorious, Japan edging out Syria 2-0 and Korea DPR putting paid to Tajikistan's brave challenge with a 3-0 win.
Fresh from that emphatic win, Korea DPR went into their second consecutive AFC U-17 Championship final strongly tipped to go one better than in 2004 and, when they romped into a 2-0 lead inside 24 minutes, few would have bet on a Japanese revival. O Jin-Hyok had put his team in front as early as the sixth minute and Ri Sang-Chol doubled the advantage 18 minutes later to leave Japan staring defeat in the face with a two-goal half-time deficit.
The underdogs kept faith in their own ability to retrieve the
situation, however, and the turning point arrived when Kakitani
pulled one back just after the interval. The next goal arrived
little over half-and-hour later, Jin Hanato netting a 78th-minute
equaliser to force the match into extra time, where the momentum
was well and truly with the Japanese.
All they needed was a hero and one arrived in the shape of supersub Hiroki Kawano, who fired them into the lead in 113 minutes before dribbling through the entire Korea DPR defensive line to fire home a magical and much-celebrated winner with just seconds remaining.
Nevertheless, despite such a memorable and dramatic victory, the triumphant coach, Hiroshi Jofuku, kept a cool head, ignoring the mayhem going on around him to focus on the challenge ahead. He said: "Despite the results and the team's wonderful displays, there are still many areas that we can improve before the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The core of the Japan U-17 World Cup squad will come from this team and we will do our job well to make Japan and Asia proud."
Golden autumn for Korea DPR
In Asia, Autumn is widely considered the best season as it is the time of harvest.
For Korea DPR, despite their final defeat, it could still be considered a fruitful fall as their U-17 men followed on from the example set by their young women at the recent FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship.
The outcome might have been depressingly familiar two years on from a 1-0 defeat to China, but Korea DPR fans had every reason to applaud their beaten team, who impressed everyone with their fine teamwork and never-say-die spirit.
The Eastern Asians didn't have a good start in the group
stage, where they only advanced as the second placed team after
losing to Saudi Arabia 2-1.
However, they emerged as a different side in crucial quarter-final against China, claiming spectacular revenge by stunning the defending champions 2-1 to successfully book their passage to the last four and a place at next year's FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Burgeoning stars announce their arrival
Topping the goal charts was Syrian striker Mohamed Jaafar, who scored six times - with three separate braces against Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan - to steer his team into the last four and claim the tournament's Golden Boot award.
The tournament's MVP, Japan midfielder Yoichiro Kakitani, proved another revelation, not only with his four goals but with the prompting and probing he provided at the heart of the Japanese engine room.
However, coach Jofuku opted to stress the collective efforts that had enabled his star midfielder to shine. "One Kakitani can't make a team and it was our team efforts that carried us all the way through," he said.