UncategorisedAll systems go for AFC Championship

September 11, 201947

?Bahrain will look to take the home advantage today (October 13) when they face two-time champions Saudi Arabia in the opening match in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship.
This highly-anticipated game, which tips off at 7.30pm, will kick off Bahrain’s dream of winning their maiden title in this 16-team four-group continental battle.
Playing early on today’s 11-time winners South Korea kick off their title quest at 4.30pm against Thailand. Both matches will take place at the modern Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town.
Today’s opening ceremony is under the patronage of His Majesty the King personal representative for Charity Works and Youth Affairs, Supreme Council for Youth and Sports chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
As hosts of the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship, Bahrain will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Thailand, IR Iran, Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic – all of who have emerged as champions on home soil.
The Bahrainis will be making their first appearance since 2010, qualified automatically as hosts but also took part in the qualification campaign where they finished third in Group F behind Iraq and Tajikistan.
Mohamed Jasim Marhoon was a standout for them by scoring four of their seven goals, and he can be expected to play a key role if they are to emulate their best-ever display in 1986 when they finished runners-up after a 2-0 loss to the Saudis in the final.
On the other hand, the Saudis enter the competition as one of the continent’s heavyweights. They have not had the best of times in the U-19 Championship in the previous two editions, having been eliminated in the group stage in 2012, before failing to qualify altogether two years ago.
However, the Green Falcons – champions in 1986 and 1992 – made amends by comfortably qualifying this time around after finishing top of Group B, beating Turkmenistan, Syria and Yemen and scoring 11 goals while conceding just once.
The jury is still out on whether the Saudis will have what it takes to challenge for top honours, although the likes of Abdulrahman Alyami and Ayman Al Khulaif will ensure they have plenty of firepower to call upon.
Press conferences for both matches were staged yesterday as the four teams’ coaches gave their thoughts about their respective sides’ clashes on the inaugural day of this prestigious event.
The tournament acts as the AFC qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, as the top four teams from this competition will qualify for the World Cup in South Korea in 2017 as the AFC representatives, besides South Korea who qualified automatically as hosts.
The organizing committee, in conjunction with a team from the Asian Football Confederation, have put the final touches ahead of the competition kick-off.

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