Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were the region’s sides among the 15 teams making it to the finals of next year’s AFC U23 Championship in China, after qualifiers held in 10 different centres across the continent on Sunday that involved 39 nations.
Next month’s SEA Games hosts Malaysia earned the distinction of being the only team from Southeast Asian to emerge as group winners. Both Thailand and Vietnam were among the six best second-placed teams making the grade.
Oman topped Group A after beating Iran 2-0 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, while Iraq downed Saudi Arabia 2-0 in Jeddah to grab Group B honours.Despite their 1-1 draw against Syria in the final Group C encounter in Doha, Qatar headed Group C.
Uzbekistan topped Group D in the United Arab Emirates, while Palestine beat Bangladesh 3-0 to win Group E.
Australia won Group F without conceding a goal in three matches, winding up their campaign with a 3-0 drubbing of hosts Myanmar.
North Korea dominated Group G in Pyongyang, trouncing Laos 6-0, while Malaysia overcame Mongolia 2-0 to take Group H in Bangkok after Thailand, who had beaten Malayasia 3-0 in the opener, were held to a goalless draw by Indonesia.
Vietnam put up a stiff fight against South Korea in Ho Chi Minh City before going down 2-1 in the Group I decider.
China upset defending champions Japan in Phnom Penh to emerge as the Group J winners.
The six best runner-ups were Saudi Arabia (Group B), Syria (Group C), Jordan (Group E), Thailand (Group H), Vietnam (Group I) and Japan (Group J).
The 16 teams due to take part in the third edition of the AFC U23 Championship, to be held in four Chinese cities from January 9-27 2018, are China, Oman, Iraq, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Australia, North Korea, Malaysia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.