February 24 – Uzbekistan is set to host the AFC U20 Asian Cup, kicking off March 1, which will qualify four AFC nations to the U20 World Cup 2023 to be hosted in May/June in Indonesia.
The U20 tournament is a revisioning of the U19 tournament that was last won in 2018 by Saudi Arabia who beat South Korea 2-1 in Indonesia.
The 2020 edition was scheduled to take place in Uzbekistan but was postponed twice due to the Covid pandemic and then adjusted to an U20 format to qualify teams for the Indonesian-hosted U20 World Cup finals.
Spread over 19 days, the cities of Tashkent and Fergana will host the 16 teams across four venues. The final will be played March 18, but before then the tournament will see eight former champions in action.
The tournament opens with a Group B clash between 2010 finalists Australia and 2016 semi-finalists Vietnam at the Istiqlol Stadium in Fergana while in Group A, two former champions, Indonesia and Iraq meet at the Lokomotiv Stadium in the capital city of Tashkent.
The Group A and Group B ties between hosts Uzbekistan and Syria, and Qatar and Iran, will be played in Tashkent at the Bunyodkor Stadium and the Istiqlol Stadium.
Group C will start the next day with Oman taking on 12-time champions Korea Republic at the JAR Stadium, followed Tajikistan and Jordan battling at the Lokomotiv Stadium – both teams were quarter finalists in 2018.
Group D action will being the next day, also at the JAR Stadium with an East Asian clash between two former champions, Japan and China. Later in the day, Central Asian side Kyrgyz Republic will face the test of West Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia at the Bunyodkor Stadium.
The U19 tournament has been the birthing ground of some of Asia’s best talents in the past,
including two-time Bundesliga champion Shinji Kagawa from Japan, Iranian star Mehdi Taremi, and Qatar’s AFC Asian Cup champion Hassan Al-Haydos.
With a gap of five years since the tournament was last played, the young Asian talent is eager to be unleashed.
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