- AFC qualifying for Men’s Olympic Football Tournament held across 11 venues
- Sixteen nations remain in the hunt for three tickets to Tokyo 2020
- Korea Republic and Qatar survive scare, Vietnam impress
Forty-four contenders were whittled down to 16 over the past week as Asia’s aspirants jostled for a spot at the 2020 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Tokyo.
There was little margin for error as 11 group winners, plus the four best runners-up, chased a spot at January’s AFC U-23 Championship in Thailand.
The continent’s traditional big names all progressed, although Korea Republic’s run of eight consecutive appearances briefly looked like coming to an end. The 2012 silver medalists were facing an early exit at two goals down but earned a 2-2 draw against Australia, who also qualified as one of the best runners-up.
Rio 2016 participants Iraq topped their group to progress, as did second-placed Iran.
Qatar maintained their momentum following their recent AFC Asian Cup win by topping their group, albeit needing a 2-2 comeback draw against Oman to do so.
Vietnam, another nation who have achieved recent success, also progressed by securing three success wins, but reigning U-23 champions Uzbekistan only stayed alive thanks to a nervy scoreless draw against Tajikistan.
United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia both advanced despite being in the same group, and it was the same situation for old rivals Jordan and Syria.
Three spots will be on offer for Tokyo 2020 next January in Thailand.
Though hosting the 16-nation global tournament, Japan are participating in the U-23 Championship campaign, having qualified for Thailand with three hefty wins.
2020 AFC U-23 Championship – Qualified teams
Thailand (hosts), Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Japan, China PR, Vietnam, Australia, IR Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia.