With the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 just around the corner, here is a look at a very interesting Group B. Potentially the toughest of the four groups, it features two former champions in Japan and South Korea, together with United Arab Emirates and China.

Previous appearances: 5
Best finish: Champions (2016)
2022 result: 3rd
How they qualified: Group D winners

Japan emerged champions when Qatar hosted the 2016 edition, defeating South Korea 3-2 in a thrilling final with Takuma Asano hitting a late winner.
However, that is Japan’s only appearance in a final of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup but there are renewed hopes this time around after a strong showing in the qualifiers where they topped Group D ahead of Palestine, Bahrain and Pakistan.
Head coach Go Oiwa has a squad stacked with options with Belgian-based midfielder Joel Chima Fujita (Sint-Truiden) leading the squad with defender Takashi Uchino (Fortuna Dusseldorf) and midfielder Rihito Yamamoto the other key players.

South Korea
Previous appearances: 5
Best finish: Champions (2020)
2022 result: Quarter-finals
How they qualified: Group B winners

South Korea have a fantastic AFC U-23 Asian Cup track record, reaching at least the semi-final stage in all but one of their appearances with the crowning glory coming in Thailand 2020 when they lifted the trophy after edging Saudi Arabia in the final. The Koreans had a bumpy start to their qualifying campaign when they lost to Qatar but the match did not count towards the standings. They recovered to beat Kyrgystan (1-0) and Myanmar (3-0) to qualify as Group B winners.
Looking to regain the title, Korea Republic will go into this tournament in great form - having won the 2024 WAFF U-23 Championship in March with UK-based Bae Jun-ho (Stoke City) manning the engine room.

Previous appearances: 4
Best finish: Quarter-finals (2013, 2016, 2020)
2022 result: Group stage
How they qualified: Group G winners

UAE will be making their fifth appearance with the quarter-final stage being the furthest they have gone in previous editions. The Emiratis qualified as Group G winners, a goalless draw with China PR and a 3-0 win against India sealing them the top spot.
UAE were also involved in the 2024 WAFF U-23 Championship, where they fell 1-0 to Egypt, drew 1-1 with Iraq and lost 1-0 to Thailand.

Previous appearances: 4
Best finish: Group stage
2022 result: Did not qualify
How they qualified: One of four best runners-up

Since the tournament started in 2013, China qualified for the Finals in all but the last edition in Uzbekistan 2022, and will be making their return after a difficult qualifying campaign.
They secured four points but an inferior goal difference meant UAE topped the group, with China advancing as one of the four best runners-up.
Head coach Cheng Yaodong will be looking at his relatively young squad to rise to the occasion as China go in search of a place in the knockout stage for the first time in the competition.
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