Japan claims AFC U-19 football trophy
(Manama) – Japan made history after winning their first-ever AFC U-19 Football Championship, which concluded at the National Stadium in Bahrain.
The young samurai blue captured a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory over two-time champions Saudi Arabia in a neck-and-neck final, witnessed by thousands of football fans supporting both teams.
The win brings to an end a run of seven appearances in the final without a win in the continental championship for the Japanese, who will travel to the FIFA U-20 World Cup next year in South Korea alongside Saudi Arabia, the Iran and Vietnam as Asia’s representatives. South Korea will also play as tournament hosts.
Officiated by Qatari referee Khamis Al Marri, the championship finale saw both teams play a good tactical game and keeping clean sheets with some solid defending and well-organised teamwork.
Interestingly, Japan came into the game having not conceded a goal throughout either qualifying or during the finals and Atsushi Uchiyama-coached Japanese side were facing a Saudi Arabia that had the most potent attack of tournament, netting 16 goals in the five matches leading up to the final.
With neither side able to break the deadlock at the end of 90-minute regular time as well as the 30-minute extra time period, the match went towards the deciding penalty shoot-outs.
From the penalty spot, Japan could capitalize on all their five kicks, while Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Magrshi missed his team’s fourth kick and Koki Ogawa scored the deciding penalty in the final round of spot kicks, sending Japan players and hundreds of their supporters in the stadium stands into celebration.
The final match was under the patronage of His Majesty the King representative for Charity Works and Youth Affairs, Supreme Council for Youth and Sports chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Asian Football Confederation President and Supreme Council for Youth and Sports General Secretary Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa honored the finalists.
Bahrain Football Association president Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Bahrain Youth and Sport Affairs Minister Hisham Al Jowder and Saudi Arabia Football Federation President Ahmed Eid were among other high-ranking sports officials attending the final.
Individual trophies were also presented afterwards as Japan’s Sakai won the tournament’s best player, Saudi Arabia’s Sami Al Naji claimed the top scorer trophy, while Japan won the fair play team award.