March 20 – Host nation Uzbekistan have won their first AFC U20 Asian Cup, beating five times champions Iraq 1-0 in the final in Tashkent.
In front of a capacity crowd of 33,834 in the Bunyodkor Stadium, the Uzbeks were roared on to a fast start, dominating the first half hour and missing three good chances to take the lead.
Uzbekistan thought they had taken the lead when Abbosbek Fayzullaev finally found a way past Hussein Hasan ion the Iraq goal, only to have his attempt ruled offside.
Iraq gradually worked their way back into the final with striker Ali Jasim, an injury doubt before the match, providing the most problems for the Uzbeks.
On 72 minutes the Uzbek crowd were rewarded for their non-stop support. Sajjad Mohammed brought down Fayzullaev in the box and captain Umarali Rakhmonaliev hit his spot-kick down the middle as Hasan dived right.
Uzbekistan join Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as the only nations to have won the Asian title at the U17, U20 and U23 levels.
Uzbekistan now go on to the U20 World Cup in Indonesia in May as AFC champions. They will be joined by Iraq and beaten semi-finalists Japan and South Korea.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa congratulated the Uzbeks on their win, as well as the other World Cup qualifying nations who will carry the flag for Asian football in Indonesia. He also referenced the Uzbekistan organisers.
“The Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) also deserves our praise for their investment in strengthening their youth development system, which forms the cornerstone of success at all levels…I would (also) like to convey my sincere appreciation to the LOC and the Uzbekistan FA for its willingness to host the AFC’s competitions time and again in another clear example of Asian football unity,” added the AFC President.
“We must applaud them for their immaculate attention to detail and I am confident that the UFA will continue to provide an unrivalled and world-class stage for our players, teams and passionate football fans.”
Last year Uzbekistan hosted the AFC U23 Asian Cup and next year will host the Women’s U20 Asian Cup.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com