BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Hosts Thailand are the sole Southeast Asian flag bearer in the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship knockout stage, following the conclusion of the group stage on Thursday.
Thailand and Vietnam were the only two Southeast Asian sides that qualified for this edition's finals, however, 2018 finalists Vietnam could not dig deep enough to overcome their final group stage hurdle.
Heading into matchday three of the group stage, the War Elephants needed only a draw against Iraq on Tuesday at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok to go through as Group A runners up, and did just that.
The hosts took the lead as early as the sixth minute, VAR noticing a handball infraction in the box, and Jaroensak Wonggorn buried the spot kick that was awarded. An equaliser by Mohammad Qasem four minutes into the second half troubled the home crowd, but the West Asian side could not find the winning goal that would have sent them through in place of the hosts.
But Vietnam, led by legendary Korea Republic trainer Park Hang-seo could not emulate their success from the previous edition. Needing nothing less than a win over DPR Korea in Group D on Thursday in order to go through, they fell to a 2-1 defeat instead at the Rajamangala Stadium.
The recent SEA Games champions were off to a dream start when Nguyễn Tiến Linh diverted Hồ Tấn Tài's low cross into the net in the 16th minute, their first goal in the tournament, but nothing else would go their way afterwards. Poor goalkeeping by Bùi Tiến Dũng saw the custodian knocking a freekick onto the bar, which then bounced off of his back and into his net for the Korean equaliser in the 27th minute. Trần Bảo Toàn's clumsy tackle on Kim Kwang-Hyok in the box was milked for all its worth by the DPR Korea forward, who was awarded a penalty kick that was then converted by Ri Chung-Gyu for the winner.
The match-ups for the quarter-final stage are as follows:
Saudi Arabia v Thailand, Australia v Syria (Saturday)
Korea Republic v Jordan, UAE v Uzbekistan (Sunday)
Follow Goal Malaysia's Instagram account!
A post shared by Goal Malaysia (@goal_malaysia) on Jan 15, 2020 at 7:16am PST