Muscat – Despite a late request from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to the Oman Football Association (OFA) to host the AFC U19 Championship Group A Qualifiers, prompt action by the OFA officials saw the event get off to a perfect start at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Friday. The Qualifiers conclude on Saturday.
Though, the opening day’s result did not go the hosts’ way, it went down fighting to Palestine 0-1, the OFA officials were relieved to have met all the AFC requirements at a short notice.
In his remarks to Muscat Daily, Said Othman al Balushi, the CEO and general secretary of the OFA said, “We had just three days to make all the arrangements for the AFC U19 Qualifiers involving five teams including our team. A quick-response team was formed under Sheikh Shabib al Hosni, the deputy CEO of the OFA, and we managed to meet all the necessary requirements for an Asian-level tournament. “We are proud to host it and hopefully the visiting teams – Kuwait, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan – and their accompanying delegations will carry back good memories of Oman.”
Iraq was the host of the Qualifiers but recent large-scale protests in Baghdad led AFC to switch the venue. On Friday, Kuwait and Palestine got off to winning starts. Kuwait came from behind to defeat Pakistan 2-1 while Palestine edged hosts Oman 1-0 in the day’s second game.
Neither side was able to get a grip on the tie in the opening minutes but that changed in one swift move that saw Palestine take the lead with midfielder Anas Baniowda putting his side ahead. Both sides had chances in the second half but neither could finish as Palestine held on for the three points against Yaqoob Sabahi’s boys.
Ten other groups have already concluded their qualifying campaigns with Tajikistan the first to book its ticket in October, when it cruised through Group C with a perfect record. Qatar (Group B), Iran (Group D), Bahrain (Group E), Saudi Arabia (Group F), Malaysia (Group G), Australia (Group H), South Korea (Group I), Japan (Group J) and Indonesia (Group K) also secured qualification as the group winners in November.
The Group A winners and the four best second-placed teams will join hosts Uzbekistan in the 2020 Finals. Should Uzbekistan, which finished runner-up in Group F, emerge as one of the best four second-placed teams, the fifth-best second-placed side will advance to the Finals. On Sunday, Kuwait takes on Iraq while Pakistan plays against Palestine. Oman will meet Kuwait in its next match on Tuesday.