Malaysia sneak through to AFC U19 Championship finals, thanks to dramatic Saudi win


BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Bojan Hodak’s Malaysia U19 have qualified for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship as one of the five best second-placed finishers, following the conclusion of the qualification stage on Wednesday evening.

And that qualification proved to be one won by the skin of their teeth.


The Young Tigers’ hopes were dented after they were thumped 3-0 by Korea Republic in their final Group F match earlier in the day, a defeat that placed them as the fifth best second-placed team.

Their chances then depended largely on the Group D match between Yemen and group hosts Saudi Arabia; one of the last three matches to be played in the qualifiers. A win for the Saudis would have ensured they qualify as group champions, while a win for Yemen would have meant qualification as one of the best five second-place teams for Saudi Arabia, who would then replace Malaysia in the top five runners up.

Yemen went in front as early as the third minute through Saqr Ebrahim Al-Harbi’s goal, and kept the lead for most of the 90 minutes. The hosts only found the equaliser through Hamed Abdullah Alghamdi’s goal in the 86th minute, before snatching the winner deep in injury time, thanks to Mohammed Mali’s strike.

When the points and goals were tallied, Malaysia were proven to have done just enough to book their finals spot in Indonesia next year, although the AFC has yet to make any official confirmation. Hodak’s boys were tied on six points with sixth best second-placed team Cambodia, but have scored four and conceded four goals, as compared to Cambodia’s three and three.

The last time Malaysia qualified for the tournament was in the 2006 edition, then known as the AFC Youth Championship.

Malaysia U19’s success in qualifying is also the icing on the cake in a year that has seen a revival of youth football in the country.

In July, Malaysia U23 qualified for the AFC U-23 Championship finals as Group H winners, and in September the U16 side followed in their seniors’ footsteps. Although Malaysia have qualified for the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship finals as the hosts, they still managed to finish the qualifiers as one of the top five best runners up.

The 16 teams that have qualified for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship: Indonesia (hosts) UAE, Tajikistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Korea Republic, China, Vietnam, Japan and Australia (group winners), Iraq, Thailand, DPR Korea, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia (five best runners up).



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