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Jan 09, 2020   |  2:21AM AET

Deng captains Australia in AFC U-23 Championship opener

Deng captains Australia in AFC U-23 Championship opener

Melbourne Victory defender Thomas Deng was handed the honour of captaining Australia in its opening match of the AFC U-23 Championship against Iraq at the Thammasat Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Despite Iraq creating a number of opportunities from set pieces in the first half, Deng made sure Australia’s defence wasn’t breached.

A cracking long-range free kick from Reno Piscopo shortly after the hour mark broke the deadlock, but Iraq responded with a 77th minute equaliser through substitute Mohammed Qassim Nassif.

Defender Dylan Ryan came agonisingly close to finding a late winner for Australia when his header clattered into the bottom right post in the 87th minute. The sides forced to share the points with the match finishing a 1-1 draw.

Australia plays Thailand (Saturday, 11 January) and Bahrain (Tuesday, 14 January) in their remaining Group A matches.

The AFC U-23 Championship is Australia’s opportunity to qualify for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

The top three nations at the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 (excluding Japan) will secure a place as one of Asia’s representatives in the men’s football competition at the forthcoming Tokyo Games. 

Australia’s Group A games will be streamed on the My Football YouTube Channel and shown on Kayo Sports.