The qualifiers for the AFC U19 Championships are now underway for most of the teams in Southeast Asia. Group G, which played its first round on Saturday, sees regional heavyweights Thailand and Malaysia face off against Cambodia, Brunei and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The young War Elephants sat out the first round, as Malaysia played out a 5-4 victory over group hosts Cambodia. Striker Luqman Hakim recently featured as one of the Guardian’s future prospects world football and now playing for KV Kortrijk in the Belgian League, got his name on the scoresheet in his side’s opening victory.
Fellow Guardian-ordained talent Suphanat Mueanta also got his tournament off to a flyer, hitting four goals in Thailand’s 9-0 demolition of Brunei. Suphanat’s teammate Airfan Doloh captained the side for the match, putting in a strong performance which could earmark him to be Buriram’s next breakout star next season.
Malaysia and Thailand now sit tied for top spot in the group, closely followed by Cambodia, who managed a 9-0 victory of their own against the Northern Mariana Islands.
The qualifiers continue on Wednesday when Thailand face the Islanders and Malaysia take on neighbors Brunei.
Other groups hosting Southeast Asian teams are also set to kick-off, with Vietnam partnering Japan in Group J while Myanmar and Singapore face a stern test against East Asian giants South Korea and China in Group I. Indonesia host North Korea, Timor Leste, and Hong Kong in Group K, while Laos face Australia, Chinese Taipei, and Macau in Group H.