- Four teams qualified for Peru 2019 representing Asia
- Japan won their third Asian title
- Tajikistan made history by reaching the final
The curtain was brought down on the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship in Malaysia on Sunday with a quartet of sides booking qualification for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru.
Japan completed a continental treble by winning their third title with a tense 1-0 win over Tajikistan in the final. Korea Republic sealed their sixth appearance at the global final by reaching the last four. In the process, they won their group with three straight victories before edging India by a solitary-goal to advance to Peru 2019.
Australia, for their part, gradually clawed themselves back into the contention following a shock opening 3-0 defeat against Korea Republic. They came up with two wins to progress to the last eight, where they came from behind to eliminate Indonesia 3-2.
Nishikawa the MVP
Japan are never short of creative talents and this continental youth campaign saw the emergence of the brilliant Jun Nishikawa. With intricate touches of the ball and broad vision, the Japan No10 excelled as they reached the last four and sealed a place in Peru. The 16-year-old went on to shine in the final against Tajikistan, scoring the match and tournament winning-goal which saw him crowned as the competition’s Most Valuable Player.
Tajikistan grab the headlines
Tajikistan came from nowhere to storm to the final for the first time. While their history-making feat can be attributed to the resilient displays of the entire team, it was goalkeeper Mukhriddin Khasanov who came up with heroics between the sticks to help his side through two penalty shoot-outs and reach the tournament’s ultimate game.
Comedown for Korea Republic
The tournament finale proved something of an anti-climax campaign for Korea Republic, who entered as favourites. They underlined their place as the team to beat during the group stage, averaging four goals per game to claim three opening victories. After sealing World Cup qualification with a 1-0 win against India, though, they looked a shadow of their normal selves against Tajikistan in the semi-final clash where they lost out on penalties.
Comeback victory for Australia
Australia trailed by a goal going into the second half of the crucial quarter-final meeting against Indonesia. While the rivals sought to double their lead, the Australians rallied to fight back with Daniel Walsh levelling the scores with a header. Adam Leombruno put Australia in front before Noah Botic completed a memorable comeback victory with a late strike.
2 - Among the four qualified teams, Australia are historically the most successful at the U-17 World Cup having finished in second place at New Zealand 1999. It is Saudi Arabia who have stood out most, however, having won the world title at Scotland 1989.
3 - Japan became the most accomplished side in the Asian campaign with the success marking their third continental title. Following are a quartet of sides in Korea DPR, China PR, Saudi Arabia and Oman, all of which have twice won the championship.
13 - Australia boast a proud record in qualifying for the U-17 World Cup, with Peru 2019 their 13th appearance at the global showpiece.
14 - Korea Republic finished as the tournament's best scorers with 14 goals garnished in their five matches. Notably, they impressed during the group stage by firing 12 unanswered goals, while maintaining a clean slate.