AFC Under-19 Championship: New Stars in the making
The 40th edition of the biennial AFC under 19 Championship kick-started from the 18th of October, 2017, in Indonesia. Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta, Pakansari in Cibinong and Patriot Candrabhaga in Bekasi are the venues for the event which also serves up four qualification places for the 2019 FIFA U-19 World Cup in Poland.
Sixteen teams take part in the Championships after an exhausting qualification process consisting of forty-three teams. India failed to qualify for the Championships after finishing third in their qualification group, suffering a massive 0-5 loss to Saudi Arabia followed by a draw against Yemen. They ended their campaign with a win against Turkmenistan.
Teams to look out:
Japan is the defending Champion. 2016 runners-up Saudi Arabia, five-time champions Iraq and twelve-time champions South Korea will pose stiff competition to their title aspirations.
Players to watch out for:
Cho Young-Wook with a second bite at the AFC U-19 Championship's showcases the depth of talent in the grassroots in Korea. Scoring twice against Bahrain in the 2016 AFC Under-19 Championships to pull off a memorable win and with six goals in the 2018 AFC Under-19 qualifiers, he is going to be a vital cog in the Korean attack.
17-year-old Takefusa Kubo from Japan has had a four-year stint in Barcelona at the age of ten. Representing Japan in both U-17 and U-20 World Cups last year he has a wealth of experience to help Japan in retaining their title.
Feras Al Brikan from Saudi Arabia starred in Indonesia 2018 qualifying campaign, finishing as his side's top scorer. His presence would be essential if Saudi Arabia is looking to go one place better to claim the title.
China’s Yan Bingliang playing for Villareal Youth team would be looking to impress at this Championships along with Tao Qianglong from China who after scoring an injury-time winner in the qualifiers as a super-sub, became a regular starter in the first team.
Australian coach Ante Milicic has got the services of Con Ouzounidis who plays for Everton Under 23's, Christian Theoharous, who plays for Borussia Mönchengladbach youth academy, and Sebastian Pasquali who plays for AFC Ajax’s second division side in the Netherlands. The Socceroos are expected to pose a stiff challenge at these Championships hoping to stake a place in the semi-finals.
17-year-old Will Donkin of Chinese Taipei carries Taipei's hopes of booking a place in the quarter-finals. Playing for the Crystal Palace under-18 team and with a five-year stint with Chelsea academy, he certainly has the experience to carry Taipei to the next stage.
The sixteen teams, split into four groups would be vying for quarter-final berths with the finals slated on 4th November 2018.
Group A: UAE, Qatar, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei.
Group B: Japan, Iraq, Thailand and North Korea.
Group C: Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, and Jordan.
Group D: Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, China and Malaysia.
The United Arab Emirates take on Qatar in the opening game followed by hosts Indonesia starting their campaign against Chinese Taipei.