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KUALA LUMPUR: As the countdown to the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 gathers pace, 16 participating teams are gearing up for the continental tournament, slated to kick off on April 15 in Doha.

Promoting the event, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), posted a flashback highlighting the 2016 edition of the tournament which was also hosted by Qatar.

The 2016 edition of the AFC U23 Asian Cup doubled up as the qualifying campaign for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games later that year, with stakes high as the 16 sides battled it out for the three places up for grabs in Brazil, said the report.

A Shoya Nakajima-inspired Japan overcame Iran 3-0 after extra-time in the quarter-finals before Riki Harakawa's stoppage-time goal in the semi-final eliminated defending champions Iraq and secured a place at the Olympics. Korea Republic, meanwhile, edged Jordan in the last eight before goals from Ryu Seung-woo, Kwon Chang-hoon and Moon Chang-jin saw off Qatar 3-1 to set up a clash with their East Asian rivals.

The Taeguk Warriors looked to be cruising to the title as goals from Kwon and Jin Sung-wook put them two up in the final, only for a Japan masterclass to follow.

Takuma Asano pulled one back midway through the second half before Shinya Yajima's bullet header levelled proceedings and, with momentum on their side, Asano turned his marker and raced through to complete a remarkable turnaround with the title-winning goal 10 minutes from time.

Nakajima lit up the tournament with a string of fabulous performances and stunning goals that saw him named MVP, while Takumi Minamino was also part of the Japan side and it was Wataru Endo who captained the Samurai Blue to glory.

Elsewhere, Kwon shone in a Korean side that also featured Hwang Hee-chan, Akram Afif helped Qatar reach the semi-finals, Omar Khrbin scored for Syria and then rising star Chanathip Songkrasin was on the mark for Thailand.

While it would be hard to better the five-goal thriller in the final, the third-place game between Qatar and Iraq, with Olympic qualification on the line, was of equal standing with the hosts five minutes away from booking their ticket to Brazil only to miss out heartbreakingly.

The tournament's six-goal top scorer Ahmed Alaaeldin put Qatar in front just before the half hour but Abdulraheem's downward header drew the holders level with less than five minutes remaining. Ayman Hussein headed home in extra-time and, after Hassan struck the woodwork late on, it was Iraq that were heading to Brazil.

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