Time: November 04, 2018
JAKARTA — Saudi Arabia has finally gotten over the hump it faced while falling short in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship by emerging the 2018 champion at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta Sunday.
The Saudis sealed their third title at this level after beating South Korea 2-1 in an entertaining final. The Saudis had earlier won the title in 1986 and 1992.
The Green Falcons had so much on the line during this tournament as they came so close to winning it all two years ago but were beaten by Japan in a penalty shootout.
It perfectly set-up an intense match-up, but the Green Falcons were simply the hungrier of the two sides. This was evident when Turki Al-Ammar, the MVP of the tournament, put the Green Falcons ahead only two minutes into the game as they signaled what was to come from Saudis.
Probably shell-shocked from the early goal, South Korea could not understand what hit them and before they knew it, they could not get a sniff of the ball as Saudis set the pace and were in complete control.
It would eventually pay-off after 20 minutes of the opener as Khalid Al-Ghannam produced one of the best shots of the tournament with a right-footed cannon that beat the defender and goalkeeper as it doubled Saudi’s lead.
The Green Falcons continued to apply pressure and could have been up more before the half as they were precise with their attacks and movements while the South Koreans looked a step slower.
In the second half, though, South Korea appeared to have new life and they eventually won a penalty that Cho Young Wook confidently converted. This gave the South Koreans new life as they pressed on to find the equalizer.
However, Saudis were able to successfully adjust to what South Korea had begun to throw at them. They still dominated possession and even created chances. Having one hand on the title two years ago and having it taken away at the last moment appeared to give the Green Falcons a different focus in this tournament which was ultimately manifested in the final.
They were ready for anything and appeared confident throughout 90 minutes. They are finally champions again after 26 years and have beaten two of the best teams along the way. They are at the top and deserve the accolades they have gotten to this point.