BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia and South Korea sealed qualification for the 2020 Olympic men’s football tournament on Wednesday when they reached the final of the Asian Under-23 Championship in Thailand.
The competition serves as the Asian Football Confederation’s Olympic qualifiers, with places in Japan going to the top three teams.
The top two were confirmed in Wednesday’s semifinals as South Korea defeated Australia 2-0, while Saudi Arabia beat Uzbekistan 1-0.
Kim Dae-won’s 56th-minute strike put the Koreans ahead at Thammasat Stadium on the outskirts of Bangkok. Lee Dong-kyeong added a second 14 minutes from time to earn a deserved victory over Australia.
South Korea’s reward is a spot at their ninth consecutive Olympics — a run that includes a bronze medal at London 2012.
Earlier, Saudi Arabia took until the 87th minute to find the goal that saw off the challenge of defending champions Uzbekistan at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium.
Substitute Nasser Al-Omran’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected into the Uzbek goal by Abdullah Al-Hamdan, sparking wild celebrations as the Saudis ended a 24-year wait since their last appearance at an Olympic Games.
The two teams will meet in the final on Bangkok on Sunday
Olympic hosts Japan — who were eliminated at the group stage of this competition — qualify automatically for the 2020 Games.
The fourth and final Asian team will be the winner of the third place playoff between Australia and Uzbekistan on Saturday evening.
The Aussies are seeking a first Olympic appearance since 2008, while Uzbekistan would be making their debut in the competition.
Women’s Olympic football qualifiers moved from China virus epicenter
Women’s football qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be moved from the Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak to another location in the country, the AFC said Wednesday.
Wuhan was supposed to host China, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia for the Group B qualifiers Feb. 3-9, but they will now be held on the same dates in the eastern city of Nanjing, AFC said in a statement.
It said the change was proposed by the Chinese Football Association.
Nine people have died and at least 440 have been infected with the SARS-like coronavirus that has spread around China, with the vast majority of cases reported in Wuhan.
A seafood market that sold wild animals is suspected to be the source of the outbreak.
The coronavirus has caused alarm for its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Cases have also been reported outside China, in countries including the US, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.
Even before the announcement about the postponement of the football qualifiers, Taiwan’s football association had warned it would withdraw from the matches if they were held in Wuhan, saying that “the safety of players is our top priority.”