Doha: Defending Asian Football Confederation Under-22 champions Iraq found themselves alongside regional challengers Yemen, London Olympics bronze medalists Korea Republic and a highly rated Uzbekistan side in a tough looking Group C when the draw for the 16-team AFC U23 Championship was made at a grand ceremony in Doha.
AFC U23 Championship Qatar 2016
Group A: Qatar, Syria, IR Iran, China PR
Group B: Saudi Arabia, Japan, DPR Korea, Thailand
Group C: Iraq, Korea Republic, Uzbekistan, Yemen
Group D: Jordan, Australia, UAE, Vietnam
Hosts Qatar, who have called up a raft of players who won the AFC Asian U-19 Championship in Myanmar last year and elevated Spaniard Felix Sanchez to the role of U23 coach, are in Group A where they are joined by East Asian powerhouse China, Iran and Syria.
Nine-time Olympic qualifiers and fourth-place finishers at the London Games Japan are pooled along with Saudi Arabia, DPR Korea and Thailand in Group B, while 1988 quarter-finalists Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Vietnam make up Group D.
AFC Acting General Secretary Windsor John conducted the draw, assisted by former Qatar internationals Khaled Salman and Badr Bilal, and attended by a host of dignitaries from the Asian football family.
The U23 Championship, to be played from January 12 to 30, has added relevance as it will double as qualification for the Rio Olympics, to be held later next year. The tournament will be played at the Al Sadd, Al Arabi, Qatar Sports Club and Lekhwiya Stadiums, all of which are situated in and around Qatar’s capital city of Doha.
Prior to the draw, AFC Vice President Saoud A. Aziz M A Al Mohannadi and Dato’ Windsor jointly unveiled the new trophy of the tournament while the AFC U23 Championship’s new logo was also revealed.
The logo’s fantastic design represents the AFC’s five regions, with a star in the middle symbolising the promising talent that will be on display at the tournament.
A short video depicting the host nation’s history and diversity was also shown at the event.
Asian Football Confederation Website