S. Korea learn AFC U-23 Championship qualifying opponents

November 7, 2018

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) — South Korea will face Australia, Cambodia and Chinese Taipei in the qualifying stage for the continental under-23 football tournament next year.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Wednesday held the draw ceremony for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifying campaign at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. The result showed South Korea are in Group H with Australia, Cambodia and Chinese Taipei.

The men’s U-23 side, led by head coach Kim Hak-bum, will play their qualifiers in Cambodia from March 22 to 26, 2019, in a round-robin format.

This file photo taken on Aug. 31, 2018, shows South Korea's under-23 national football team players training in Cibinong, Indonesia, for the 18th Asian Games. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken on Aug. 31, 2018, shows South Korea’s under-23 national football team players training in Cibinong, Indonesia, for the 18th Asian Games. (Yonhap)

South Korea have 10 wins, one draw and two losses against Australia at the U-23 level. They also have two wins against Chinese Taipei. South Korea have not met Cambodia in U-23 football.

“We have Australia in our group, the team that we wanted to avoid,” Kim said through the Korea Football Association. “We’ll play like we’re in the knockout phase and we have to win the group because it’s uncertain if we finish in second place. We’ll give 100 percent effort in every match.”

South Korea, the champions of the 18th Asian Games, were among the top five seeded East Asian teams in Pot 1 with Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and North Korea.

Vietnam, led by South Korean head coach Park Hang-seo, were paired with Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei in Group K. North Korea were drawn into Group G with Hong Kong, Singapore and Mongolia. Group I features Japan, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Macau, while Group J has Malaysia, China, Laos and the Philippines.

There are 44 teams in the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers. The 44 hopefuls were divided into two zones of West Asia with 24 teams and East Asia with 20 teams.

The 24 teams in the West were then divided into six groups of four, while the 20 teams in the East were split into five groups of four.

Excluding Thailand, which received automatic qualification for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship as the hosts, the participating teams will need to battle for 15 available spots. The 11 group winners and four best second-place teams among all groups will get tickets to the AFC U-23 Championship finals.

If Thailand win their group or are among the four best runners-up, the fifth second-place team will qualify for the finals.

The 2020 AFC U-23 Championship doubles as the Asian qualifying tournament for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The top three teams of the tournament and Japan, the host nation of the 2020 Olympics, will advance to the quadrennial competition. If Japan reach the semifinals, the fourth-place team will get a ticket to Tokyo 2020.

South Korea have yet to claim the Asian U-23 title since the tournament was inaugurated in 2013. The young Taeguk Warriors were the runners-up in 2016.