Host Thailand were cruelly eliminated from the AFC U23 Championship after a late VAR decision ended their Tokyo 2020 Olympic dream.
Knowing that three of the four teams who qualifies to the semi-final of the competition will be able to gain the coveted spot in the Olympics later in the year, the manner in which Thailand were dumped out of the competition certainly left a bitter taste in the mouth.
On replay it looked like the referee Ahmed Al Kaf had already made the right call of awarding a free kick at the edge of Thailand‘s box but Video Assistant Referee (VAR) intervened to advise Al Kaf that it should be a penalty instead, even though the Abdullah Al Hamdan had clearly been fouled outside the box.
Understandably disappointed with how the match turned out, head coach Akira Nishino preferred to focus on how his charges had performed throughout the competition instead of on the match officials. The experienced Japanese is confident that these players will become important players for the senior side in the near future.
“This game is our 4th match. The game form of the day made it not very good. But I think both teams played to the best of our abilities. Since the group stages, our players have been working hard. We started the game well in the first 15-20 minutes, playing the way we want. But there are some events in the game, I would not like to talk about “
“Throughout the four games, I believe that our players have gained invaluable experience. And they will be the backbone of the 2026 World Cup goal. All players will be able to take this experience to the top and develop themselves to be a better player in the future,” said Nishino after the match.
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