Qatar drew 0-0 with Saudi Arabia in Group B of the AFC U23 Championship on Sunday to leave both sides firmly in contention to reach the competition's quarter-finals.
With one game each still to play, the result sees Saudi Arabia move to four points following their impressive defeat of Japan on Matchday One, with Qatar in the wake of their draw with Syria two points adrift of their regional rivals.
Saudi Arabia complete their group stage fixtures on Wednesday when they face Syria, while Qatar will tackle Japan on the same day.
In another match, Syria's Ala'a Aldin Dali beat Japan 2-1 at Thammasat Stadium on Sunday that sees the 2016 champions exit the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 with one game remaining.
Dali raced half the length of the field before slotting past Japanese goalkeeper Keisuke Saito to leave the Japanese rooted to the bottom of Group B without a point from their first two games and with no way to progress beyond the opening phase of the competition.
Syria join Saudi Arabia at the top of the standings with four points from their first two games and the duo will fight it out for the top spot on Wednesday, while Qatar will hope to pick up a win against the eliminated Japanese to keep their hopes alive of a place in the last eight.
Meanwhile, Korea Republic became the first team to qualify for the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 knockout stage after they claimed a 2-1 win over the Islamic Republic of Iran at Tinsulanon Stadium today.
First-half goals from Lee Dong-jun and Cho Gue-sung gave Kim Hak-bum's side a two-goal half-time buffer, but Reza Shekari's effort nine minutes after the interval meant the Koreans had to negotiate a difficult period to extend their winning start to the competition.
Their perfect tally of six points from two matches means they are sure to advance to the knockout stage no matter what happens in Wednesday's match against Uzbekistan, while Iran's hopes of ending a 44-year Olympic qualification drought now weighs heavily on their final group stage fixture against China PR.
Defending champions Uzbekistan took a major step towards the quarter-finals, defeating China PR 2-0 today.
Captain Islom Kobilov scored one penalty kick and had another saved before Nurillo Tukhtasinov came off the bench seal an important win for Ljubinko Drulovic's side with 10 minutes remaining.
China PR's second defeat in succession means they can no longer advance to the knockout stage, while Uzbekistan's relatively handsome tally of four points from two matches means they require only a draw from their final group stage match against already qualified the Korea Republic to advance.
Cover image credit: Gulf Times
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