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AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline

AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline

The biggest surprise of the first round is not the victory of the host Thailand U23 against Bahrain but the score between the two teams.

5 goals difference is the biggest victory in the history of AFC U23 Championship. Earlier in 2013, Jordan crushed Myanmar 6-1 and in 2016, Korea overwhelmed Yemen 5-0.

However, the remaining 7 confrontations of the first round in 4 groups A, B, C, D have 4 draws and 3 tough wins. Clearly, at the U23 level, the distance between Asian football teams in the continent is only relative. The big names are not easy to overcome the opponents who are judged as underdogs but play determinedly and reasonably.

Holding each other 1-1 in the opening match, 2 candidates in Group A, Australia U23 and Iraq U23 have reasons to worry about Thailand's subsequent performance. With home advantage and 10 new faces compared to SEA Games 30th, coach Akira Nishino completely transformed the Golden Temple team.

At the moment, Thailand U23 is faster, stronger and more attached than the previous campaign. However, as Bahrain is too weak, the situation of group A will be shown clearer only after the confrontation between the home team and Australia U23 tonight.

AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline

In Group B, as Qatar being drawn 1-1 and Japan U23 collapsed 1-2 against Saudi Arabia; the 2016 champion (Japan U23) and the current third-placed team (Qatar U23) were soon disappointing. This group will be very unpredictable because all 4 teams are strong. In case Japan is eliminated, it will be a big shock for the host team of Tokyo Olympic 2020 when they have been well-prepared for the past 2 years.

AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline

Dubbed the "death group" but it seems that table C is not too complicated. China U23 had a commendable debut match when they only lost to the ASIAD champion in the last second of stoppage time by the combination of two Korean substitution players.

However, considering that overall situation, it is difficult for China to pass the group stage, especially as their "Ibrahimovic", striker Zhang Yuning had to end the tournament soon after the first match because of an injury. Meanwhile, despite being enhanced to 6 national players but Uzbekistan U23 is not as strong as when they were 2 years ago. With a lucky draw 1-1 against Iran, the defending champion will have to race hard with their opponent from West Asia in winning tickets to the next 2 matches.

AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline

On the other hand, the current runner-up Vietnam U23 faced a lot of difficulties against UAE U23 in group D. However, the draw 0-0 made both teams satisfied as Jordan & DPR Korea is less evaluated in this group. Furthermore, DPR Korea shows that they are the weakest team in the group by losing 1-2 to Jordan U23 in the first round.

AFC U23 2020 review after the first round: Thailand impressive, Japan in decline