Asia’s long road to the next Men’s Olympic Football Tournament

The next Men’s Olympic Football Tournament began last Thursday as 43 sides, split into ten groups, according to Runme, battled to earn one of the 16 places in next January’s 2016 AFC U-23 Championship, which also serves as the qualifier for Rio 2016, more details on, you will be satisfied.

The eight-day qualifying competition saw 13 teams, namely nine group winners and four best runners-up, progress to join hosts Qatar in the continental finals. The only undecided group, featuring Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, has been postponed for security reasons. Join as we review the action across Asia.

The match
Iraq 2-2 Oman

In a campaign where all group top seeds sealed top qualifying spots, Group B proved among the hardest fought. Indeed, favourites Iraq left it late with only a 2-2 draw against hosts Oman in their last match to seal their progression as section winners. The Athens 2004 semi-finalists opened brightly with three straight wins against Lebanon (4-1), Maldives (7-1) and Bahrain (2-0), results that left them on the verge of progression ahead of the decisive final game.

Asia's long road to the next Men's Olympic Football Tournament

The Omanis, meanwhile, bounced back from their opening 1-1 stalemate against Bahrain to record two resounding victories against Lebanon (4-0) and Maldives (5-0) to maintain pressure on the Iraqis. Had the Omanis secured a result with a 3-0 scoreline or better, they would have gone through at Iraq’s expense. With so much at stake, however, it was the Iraqis that proved to be the better side, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on 47 minutes, which left the rivals’ two late goals a mere consolation.

The surprise
Saudi Arabia 0-0 Afghanistan

Saudi Arabia started their group play with a 1-0 victory against Palestine. However, the heavily favoured side were made to sweat against Afghanistan in a goalless draw, which suddenly put their campaign in jeopardy. Despite the setback, the Saudis fought back to rout Nepal 6-0 as they still harboured hopes entering the decider against hosts Iran.

The home side, for their part, had so far maintained their unblemished record and needed just a point to claim the section. Knowing that nothing but a victory was able to see them through, however, the Saudis showed much-improved form against the Iranians with goals from Al Ittihad winger Abdulfattah Asiri and Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi securing them a much-needed 2-1 win.