The draw for the 2023 Asian Football Confederation 안전놀이터(AFC) Under-23 (U-23) Asian Cup, which doubles as the Asian qualifier for men’s football at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, has been finalized.
The Hwang Sun-hong-led Korea U-22s have been drawn in Group B alongside Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Qatar in the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifying draw, which took place at AFC Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday (July 25).
South Korea, winners of the 2020 tournament, were eliminated in the last edition in 2022 after losing to Japan in the quarterfinals.
South Korea applied to host the qualifiers and was granted special “host port” status. Bahrain was joined by China, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as host ports.
The most notable addition is the arrival of host nation Qatar in Group B. Qatar will be hosting the tournament in April 2024. While the host nation automatically qualifies for the tournament, Qatar applied to participate in the qualifiers to gain experience and was placed in the same group as South Korea.
An official from the Korea Football Association said, “The match against Qatar is not related to winning or losing. Only the results of the matches against the other two teams will be taken into account (for qualification).”
The AFC also said, “The match against Qatar is a friendly and will not be included in the calculation of the group standings.”
The qualifiers for the tournament will be held from Sept. 4-12. The Korea Football Association will later select a domestic stadium to host the qualifiers. With Qatar, a perceived threat to South Korea, unranked, and the other two teams, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan, one place below them in objective strength, Hwang Sun-hong is in the best possible group. It’s a good thing they won’t be facing any of the tricky Middle Eastern teams like Iran or Syria.
In the 43-team U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers, the top 11 nations in each group and the top four finishers in each group will qualify for the main event next April.
Meanwhile, Japan, which defeated South Korea at the 2022 tournament, was drawn in Group D with Bahrain, Palestine, and Pakistan. Vietnam, coached by Gong Oh Kyun, is in Group C with Singapore, Yemen and Guam and will host the qualifiers. Indonesia, coached by Shin Tae-yong, will also host the tournament and are in Group K with Turkmenistan and Chinese Taipei.
North Korea, which is making its return to international competition, will face a tough task in Group I with powerhouse Australia, host Tajikistan and Southeast Asia’s Laos.