The Cambodian football team made history after qualifying for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U19 Championship for the first time in more than 45 years.
Cambodia last qualified for the AFC championship in 1974. Since then, the Kingdom has never advanced past the first round of the tournament.
This will be the fourth appearance of Cambodia in the championship round of the biennial event. The Kingdom also qualified in 1963 and 1972 when the tournament was still known as the Asian Youth Championship.
Cambodia has Palestine to thank for. A draw between Kuwait and Palestine in Group A ensured that Cambodia will qualify as one of the five best runners-up.
Tournament rules stipulate that only the group winners and the four best runners-up qualify for the championship round that will be held in Uzbekistan in October next year. In case Uzbekistan qualifies as one of the four best runners-up, the same rules provide that the last slot will go to the fifth placed runner-up.
As host country, Uzbekistan is already guaranteed a slot in the championship round.
Cambodia placed fifth among the runners-up at the conclusion of the group qualifiers, pending the results in Group A.
Iraq was supposed to host the Group A qualifier in early November. But political unrest forced for it to be rescheduled and held in another country. Oman ended up hosting the Group A matches from Nov 22 to 30.
Cambodia’s fate was not known until the second to the last game in Group A. The whole country waited with bated breath as Kuwait battled Palestine yesterday at the Al-Seeb Stadium. A win by Kuwait would have sent them to the second round together with group winner Iraq.
Luckily for Cambodia, Palestine held firm and managed to hold the Kuwaitis to a 3-3 draw to the delight of fans in this football-loving country.
“Congratulations to the Cambodian football team for making history by qualifying in the final round of the 2020 AFC U19 Championship,” said a post in the official Facebook page of the Cambodia Football Federation (CFC).
In addition to Cambodia and Uzbekistan, the other qualifiers are Iraq (Group A winner), Qatar (Group B), Tajikistan (Group C), Iran (Group D), Bahrain (Group E), Saudi Arabia (Group F), Malaysia (Group G), Australia (Group H), South Korea (Group I), Japan (Group J) and Indonesia (Group K).
The other three best runners-up are Laos, Vietnam and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is the current champion, having beaten South Korea in the 2018 AFC U19 Championship held in Indonesia.
Cambodia, which hosted the group qualifier, won three straight matches against teams from Brunei, Thailand and Northern Mariana Islands after losing its opener to Malaysia to snag the second spot in Group G.