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Cambodia has a ‘fighting chance’ to do well in AFC U-19 C’ship

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodia will face Malaysia again in the U-19 Championship. KT/Yeun Punleau

The Cambodian U-19 National Football Team has been drawn to compete in one of the ‘weakest brackets’ in the group stage of the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-19 Championship, giving it a good chance of doing well or even advancing to the knockout stages of the tournament.

The 2020 AFC U-19 Championship will be held in Uzbekistan from October 14 to 31.

Cambodia is in Pot 2, together with the U-19 teams of Malaysia, Iraq and Vietnam.

Except for Iraq, the other teams with Cambodia have yet to win the championship in the tournament. Though Malaysia, which has a total of 24 appearances in the championship stage, has advanced to the finals three times in 1959, 1960 and 1968. Iraq, which has a total of 18 appearances, won the tournament five times in 1975, 1977, 1978, 1988 and 2000.

Vietnam, which will appear in the tournament for the 20th time, was a semi-finalist in 2016.

During the qualifying stage of the tournament, which was held in Phnom Penh in November last year, Cambodia narrowly lost to Malaysia, 5-4. The Cambodians returned the favour a month later by scoring a monumental upset against Malaysia in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines.

Pot 1, which is considered to be the strongest grouping, is composed of Uzbekistan (the host country), together with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Qatar, which have 16 championship trophies between them. Uzbekistan was runner-up in 2008 after falling to the United Arab Emirates in the finals.

The teams in Pot 2 are Japan, Indonesia, Tajikistan and Australia. This is another weak bracket, with Japan and Indonesia sharing two championship crowns between them. Australia was a runner-up in 2010, while Tajikistan reached the quarterfinals in 2016 and 2018.

Pot 4 is led by four-time champion Iran. Also in the group are Bahrain, Laos and Yemen. Bahrain was runner-up in 1986, Laos was a quarter-finalist in 1970, while Yemen, which has six appearances the championship round, has yet to advance past the group stage.

The top two winners from each bracket will advance to the quarterfinals.

Last year, Cambodia qualified for the championship stage of AFC U-19 for only the fourth time in its history. It also marked the first time for Cambodia to qualify in more than 45 years. The Kingdom also played in the championship stage in 1963, 1972 and 1974.

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