Confident Qatar brace for noisy crowds, tough teams at AFC U-23

 25 Oct 2017 - 0:14

Confident Qatar brace for noisy crowds, tough teams at AFC U-23

By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula

Qatar coach Felix Xanchez yesterday said he will be preparing his players for noisy crowds and testing competition when the national squad lands in China for the AFC Asian U-23 Cup early next year.
Qatar yesterday were drawn in Group A with hosts China, feisty opponents Uzbekistan and neighbouring Oman at the 16-team tournament that will be held from Jan 8-27.
At the draw ceremony held yesterday, the organisers confirmed that Changzhou, Kunshan, Jiangyin and Changshu - all located in Jiangsu Province - will host the tournament’s 32 matches.
“We know that playing against China is going to be a good experience because we expect a good stadium, full of people and we know China have a good team,” Sanchez said yesterday.
Following the draw ceremony held at Changzhou, Qatar’s Spanish coach Sanchez said the opponents in Group A won’t be easy to tackle.
“They have a good squad, the same as Uzbekistan, who are one of the top teams, and Oman. We expect a very high level of contest and we are going to try to perform well,” Sanchez said.
“We’re going to start (our preparations) in the middle of December – in Qatar there is no league then, so its easier for us. We will play some friendlies and a few days before we will come here to adapt. I’m looking forward to starting the competition,” he added.
In the draw, reigning champions Japan were drawn along with first-time qualifiers Palestine in Group B which also has Thailand and DPR Korea.
China, who are the hosts, will play Oman in Changzhou on January 8, followed by matches against Qatar and Uzbekistan.
The ceremony, held at the Traders Fudu Hotel’s Zuan Shi Tin Ballroom, separated the 16 qualified teams into four groups for next January’s flagship Asian youth competition.
Husam Jibril Mahmoud Al Rjoob, representing first-time qualifiers Palestine, said: “There was no easy team to be drawn against, therefore we were expecting a tough group. I’m looking forward to competing with the best and I believe we are running on the right track.”
Al Rjoob added: “We need to work hard. Our players have shown good performances throughout the qualification, and I believe we need to keep going in the same direction.”
Malaysia, another team that has qualified for the finals for the first time, will be competing against Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Group C.
Ong Kim Swee, Malaysia head coach, said: “For us, its our first time to qualify and I think to be in that group with the three Middle East countries is an advantage for them – Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. I think it’s a good experience for us.”
Kim Swee added: “I believe that if we prepare well, we have an equal chance among the four teams. The tournament will have a different kind of intensity, and (our players) must understand that when they come to this level, they must be very, very consistent - and of course, there’s a lot of opportunities if they can do well at this tournament, and I believe it will be a stepping stone for Malaysian players to play abroad.”
In a mouth-watering clash, Korea Republic have been drawn to play Australia in a Group D clash to be played in Kushan. Syria and Vietnam are the other teams in Group D.
Luke Casserly, head coach of Australia, said: “We’ve obviously got a long history against Korea Republic, and recently we’ve had two very intense matches with our senior team against Syria, so it’s interesting and you always know when you come to a tournament like this that there are just no easy games in Asia, so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Casserly added: “(The Australian league season) means we will have minimal preparation and the players will remain with their clubs and we will look to focus on our Australian-based players. The preparation won’t be lengthy but we have the added bonus that our players should be playing (in the league) and be in good condition.”
Naif A Alqadi, team manager of Saudi Arabia, said: “Any team who arrives to the Finals of Asia’s Under-23 competition will be a hard team and it will be difficult to play against any team at this stage. Like any international team, we will use our FIFA (match) days and we have a camp in November to find our best team.”
AFC Competitions Executive Director Shin Man Gil, who conducted the draw, said: “From our hosting experience with the Chinese Football Association, we have no doubt that the 2018 AFC U23 Championship will raise the bar.”