January 27 – South Korea won the final of the AFC U23 Championship with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia after defeating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final in Thailand with a goal in extra-time from Jeong Tae-uk.
The victory underlined South Korea’s strength in depth after last year’s silver medal at the U-20 World Cup in Poland. Only three of those players had been included in the squad for Thailand.
The South Koreans have never missed an Olympic qualification tournament and will now head to Japan this summer with the Saudis. Japan pre-qualify as Olympic hosts.
They will be accompanied by Australia who qualified after Nicholas D’Agostino’s 47th-minute strike was enough to snap up Asia’s last Olympic ticket in a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in the bronze medal match of the AFC U-23 Championship.
In a tight match, D’Agostino’s excellent, individual goal after the break proved the difference between the two sides and signified Australia’s return to the Olympic tournament after a twelve-year absence.
“It is a moment I am never going to forget, and it wasn’t just me, it was a team performance tonight,” said D’Agostino. “We had to fight right until the end and we know as Australia that we have the fight, the talent, and the courage to do a job.”
“We wanted to come here and win the tournament and unfortunately it didn’t happen but we’re not taking anything away from the boys tonight, they did a fantastic job, we are through to the Olympics, we can’t be happier.”
It was the best-ever finish for Australia at Asia’s U-23 tournament and for coach Graham Arnold Tokyo will be his fourth Olympic Games.
In the semi-finals, the Australians had been comprehensively beaten by South Korea, highlighting the road they still have to travel to compete with Asia’s best.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1600973929labto1600973929ofdlr1600973929owedi1600973929sni@o1600973929fni1600973929