AFC open to ideas on improving format for future tournaments

Asian Football Confederation is not closing the door on any improvements that can be done to the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers if need be.

There were plenty of anger from Malaysia after its failure to qualify for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship in Thailand when they could only finish second behind China in the qualifiers group stage, losing out by goal difference. Only the group winners were guaranteed a direct spot into the finals and by finishing second, Malaysia's hopes rested on being one of the best four second placed teams.

Due to Pakistan pulling out from the qualifiers before it even started, the rules follows that the result against the bottom placed team will not count towards the rankings of the best four second place teams. And Malaysia were left disappointed to be eliminated by a mere one goal difference.

A cruel way for Ong Kim Swee's team to bow out of the competition and unable to match their efforts from two years ago in making it through to the finals of the competition despite not losing a single game in the qualifiers. Calls for a change in the format which had several different vital matches kicking off at different times compared to Malaysia.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general-secretary Dato' Windsor John stood firm on the fact that no regulation change were made to the tournament and everyone knew what was at stake. However he remains open if anyone wants to bring forth a new and better plan for future tournaments.

"When the tournament starts, you can’t shift the goal posts. You have to follow the regulations that have been approved before the tournament. But once the tournament started, you cannot decide at the end you want to change the format and regulations.

"We’ve not received any complaints from any member associations. Everybody knew the regulations, the format even before the first ball was kicked. We used this format for all competitions, not only the U23. So there’s no reason to to look back at it.

"Now if you want to change before the new tournament, you can bring to the committee and say there’s a new format and a new way of deciding the winner, no problem. We’re happy to discuss it within the committees," said Windsor after the AFC congress.

The exit for Malaysia came after almost producing another big upset as they came within seven minutes of claiming a major win over a China side that was managed by Guss Hiddink. Had the lead been kept intact, Kim Swee would even have knocked his more illustrious compatriot out of the competition.

As it is Malaysia U23 side will only have the 2019 SEA Games to compete in, in the immediate future.


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