Tasnim – KUALA LUMPUR, Iran will be on a mission to defend its title when it hosts the second edition of the AFC U-20 Futsal Championship which kicks off on Friday.
It will take a supreme effort to stop Iran though as futsal is hugely popular in the Central Asian nation and the senior team is ranked third in the world.
The 12 teams are drawn into four groups with Iran in Group A with Afghanistan, who it defeated in qualifying 4-2, the-afc.com wrote.
Hong Kong, who replaced Saudi Arabia after the West Asian withdrew, complete the group.
Lebanon was a team in form in the Qualifiers, advancing with a perfect record and 15 goals scored but it will have to contend with Central Zone qualifying Group B winner Kyrgyz Republic and Thailand, the dominant team in Southeast Asian futsal, in Group B.
Japan is the early favorite to seal one of the two quarter-final slots from Group C. Just like Iran, futsal is hugely popular in Japan and its national and club teams are always at the forefront in regional competitions.
Japan, however, can expect to be tested as it faces Vietnam, who the East Asian defeated 3-1 in the 2017 edition group stage.
Tajikistan, despite losing to Afghanistan in the Central Zone play-off, squeezed into the Finals as Iran had already made it through as host and will be aiming to make the most of the experience.
Iraq, runner-up in 2017, will be aiming to go one better this time around and will be confident of advancing from Group D despite having Indonesia and Chinese Taipei to contend with.
Chinese Taipei was impressive in qualifying, eliminating Mongolia and China while Indonesia fought off strong regional rival to claim the third ASEAN spot in the Finals.
All the matches will be played at the Pour Sharifi Indoor Stadium in Tabriz, northwest of Iran.