The UAE Olympic football team strengthened their chances of qualifying for the AFC Under-23 Championship in Thailand in 2020 by defeating the Maldives on Sunday night.
The UAE Under-23 team blanked the Red Snappers 3-0 at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Maciej Skorza’s men had begun their campaign with a rousing 6-1 victory over Lebanon in their tournament opener on Friday. The UAE currently occupy the second spot in Group D behind hosts Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia tops the table on better goal difference after they had walloped Maldives 6-0 in their opening game on Friday night. Even if the UAE don’t top the group, they can still make the cut as one of the four best runners-up.
The 11 group winners and the four best runners-up qualify for the final tournament. If the final tournament hosts Thailand win their group or are among the four best runners-up, the fifth best runner-up also qualifies for the final tournament, according to the tournament rules.
The UAE took the lead against the Maldives just close to the half hour on 29 minutes and it remained the same as they went into the break. They then added cushion to that lead four minutes after the restart before rounding it off with the third on 76 minutes.
The UAE had 22 shots as well as 14 shots on goal as compared to the Maldives, who had two each.
The UAE, who won the bronze at the Asian Games in Indonesia last year, next take on Saudi Arabia in their final group fixture on Tuesday.
Forty-four teams are taking part in the qualification process in 13 venues across 11 host cities.
A total of 16 teams will qualify to play in the final tournament, including Thailand who qualified automatically as hosts.
The qualifiers also serve as the first stage of the AFC qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Three teams from the tournament in Thailand will join hosts Japan at the Olympics. The tournament will be held at two venues in Thailand – the Rajamangala Stadium and National Stadium in Bangkok and the Thammasat Stadium and Leo Stadium in Pathum Thani, from Jan. 8 to 26.
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