Teamwork makes the dream work

Which of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup’s ultimate 4 are favourites to be topped champions?

31


Inside a span of a fortnight, the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup has whittled all the way down to its ultimate 4.

The title contenders at the moment are all the way down to common suspects Japan, perennial darkish horses Uzbekistan and Iraq, in addition to shock package deal Indonesia.

Given the U-23 Asian Cup additionally double because the qualifiers for the boys’s soccer event on the Olympic Video games later this 12 months, the quartet at the moment are tantalisingly near reserving an in-demand ticket to Paris.

The highest three groups will progress routinely, whereas the loser of Thursday’s third-place match will nonetheless have a shot within the type of an intercontinental playoff towards African outfit Guinea.

With the semifinals to happen on Monday night, we take a better take a look at every staff’s prospects of going all the best way.

JAPAN

Whereas they’re conventional powerhouses of the continent, Japan have solely gained the event as soon as earlier than — in 2016 — and are, on paper not less than, the present favourites.

They haven’t precisely blown groups away having tasted defeat towards South Korea within the group stage, whereas additionally making an actual meal of overcoming ten-man Qatar within the quarterfinals, but their expertise is plain.

Whereas it seems that coach Go Oiwa is but to choose his strongest XI, this may also be considered as a constructive given the Samurai Blue haven’t precisely been affected by his common squad rotation.

Regardless of being one of many two gamers within the squad which have gained senior caps, ahead Mao Hosoya has been wasteful in entrance of purpose — which means Japan’s major menace has really come from the deeper attackers corresponding to Kuryu Matsuki and Fuki Yamada, whereas centre-back Seiji Kimura is curiously their present high scorer with two targets.

Nonetheless, the defence and midfield look extraordinarily steady, particularly with Joel Chima Fujita and Rihito Yamamoto typically dictating possession within the engine room, with Japan each bit an opportunity of turning into the U-23 Asian Cup’s first two-time champions.

UZBEKISTAN

Undoubtedly the event’s in-form staff, Uzbekistan have racked up 4 straight wins en path to the semis, with an excellent report of 12 targets scored and none conceded.

The energy in depth at coach Timur Kapadze’s disposal could have left a lot of his counterparts envious, with the Uzbeks even having the ability to go their first two matches with out the providers of Europe-based star duo Abbosbek Fayzullaev and Abdukodir Khusanov.

Uzbekistan are hardly pushovers in Asian soccer however, for some time now, they’ve simply been capable of make the breakthrough into the continental’s higher echelon of groups like Japan, South Korea and Iran.

They do nonetheless have an excellent observe report at producing high quality expertise and, aside from their U-23 Asian Cup triumph in 2018, additionally completed fourth two years later whereas being runners-up on the final version after dropping to Saudi Arabia within the ultimate.

The Uzbeks have clearly benefitted from a give attention to youth with 12 members of the present U-23 squad already uncovered to senior worldwide soccer, they usually have confirmed nearly unattainable to include given their 12 targets have come by means of a ramification of ten totally different scorers.

IRAQ

Simply because the senior aspect did on the AFC Asian Cup firstly of the 12 months earlier than a controversial loss to Jordan within the spherical of 16, Iraq have slowly however absolutely emerged as contenders on the U-23 Asian Cup.

They did have to beat their justifiable share of obstacles after dropping their opening match to Thailand after which needing a win of their ultimate group-stage tie towards heavyweights Saudi Arabia to face any probability of reaching the knockout spherical.

But, they duly did so to cap off an increase from the underside to the highest of Group C, earlier than seeing off Vietnam — albeit through a contentious penalty — to advance from the quarterfinals.

Iraq could not have as many notable names as among the different groups on the event however they do boast just a few with abroad expertise, plying their commerce in numerous international locations corresponding to Sweden, Netherlands, Germany and Iran.

And in star man Ali Jassim, they’ve a livewire within the attacking third that’s able to profitable any sport of his personal boot — which is a positive asset to have within the latter levels of event soccer.

INDONESIA

Of their event debut, Indonesia haven’t solely executed brilliantly to succeed in the semifinals – however at the moment are only one win away from enjoying Olympic soccer for the primary time sine 1938, after they had been nonetheless know because the Dutch East Indies and the Video games remained a senior event.

A key issue behind Indonesia’s run has been their fearless strategy, which has seen them declare almight upsets over Australia, Jordan and even South Korea within the quarterfinals, nevertheless it has not simply been all the way down to their endeavour.

A few of the soccer they’ve produced, particularly towards Jordan and South Korea, was nothing wanting excellent particularly given their standing as big underdogs, with the likes of Marselino Ferdinan, Witan Sulaeman and Rafael Struick combining brilliantly in assault.

Indonesia coach Shin Tae-Yong deserves loads of credit score given Indonesian soccer was within the doldrums when he took over on the helm 4 years in the past.

Nonetheless, contemplating the emphasis that has been positioned in nurturing the younger expertise at Indonesia’s disposal, it’s maybe unsurprising that they’ve thrived given they boast a tournament-high 14 gamers within the squad which were capped at full worldwide degree, together with some which can be already senior stalwarts like Marselino, Witan and captain Rizky Ridho.