AFC focus returns to Qatar with U23 Asian Cup kick-off tonight

April 15 – The AFC returns to Qatar tonight for the finals of the U23 Asian Cup that kick off at the Jassim Bin Hamadstadium with Qatar facing Indonesia.

Two months ago Qatar won the Asian Cup at the Lusail Stadium, beating Jordan 3-0 in the final. Now it is the turn of their U23s to chase glory.

Qatar will face Jordan later in the group, after they have played Australia in their opening group fixture tomorrow (Tuesday).

Qatar head coach Ilidio Vale said the first target for his team is to win one of the three automatic Olympic qualification slots and that the senior team have provided a morale booster for the U23s.

“The goal of this tournament is to qualify for the Olympics. It is good exposure to compete with the best teams in Asia, and I believe everyone should make the best of this time whether you’re a coach, player or administrator,” said Vale.

“We are fully prepared and will be competing hard in this group stage. We may not be favourites to win, but we will give our best in every match.

“I hope the win of Qatar’s senior national team will be a morale booster for the U23 team, but I want to reassure everyone that there is no pressure on our team. It’s a different competition, this AFC U23 Asian Cup is with different teams and objectives. However, I would like the U23 squad to achieve the same excellent results of their seniors.”

The 16-team competition will be fierce with the three direct Olympic slots and a play-off place for a fourth berth in the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Japan face South Korea, the UAE and China in Group B. Group C is headed by Saudi Arabia who face Iraq, Thailand and Tajikistan, while Group D sees Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia.

Saudi Arabia are the current champions having beaten Uzbekistan 2-0 in the final in 2022. In 2020 the Saudis lost 1-0 to South Korea in the final. The will host the U24 Asian Cup in 2024 ahead of their hosting in 2027 of the next edition of the senior team Asian Cup.

The 2024 finals will be played across four stadiums that were used for the 2022 World Cup – Jassim Bin Hamad, Al Janoub, Abdullah Bin Khalifa and Khalifa International stadiums. The final is on May 5 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

“We recognize the importance of sports in building strong, robust and tolerant societies. Hosting Asia’s shining stars of the future reaffirms our commitment to the principles and ideals of the Olympic movement. We look forward to seeing these promising athletes shine in a world-class sporting ecosystem,” said Jassim Al Jassim, AFC U23 Asian Cup 2024 LOC CEO.

“With Qatar having claimed glory during the Asian Cup only a few months ago, we hope that this will inspire our younger players to perform well and claim a spot in the upcoming Summer Olympics. Regardless of who claims the title, I am certain that fans will be treated to magical performances on the pitch while enjoying an array of activities throughout the country,” added Al Jassim.

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