The 2016 AFC U-23 Championship (also known as the 2016 AFC U-23 Asian Cup) was the second edition of the AFC U-23 Championship, the biennial international age-restricted football championship organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the men's under-23 national teams of Asia. The tournament was held in Qatar between 12–30 January 2016. A total of 16 teams compete in the tournament. The tournament was also renamed from the "AFC U-22 Championship" to the "AFC U-23 Championship".
For the first time, the AFC U-23 Championship acted as the AFC qualifiers for the Olympic football tournament, replacing the previous process of home-and-away Olympic qualifiers. The top three teams of the tournament qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics men's football tournament in Brazil as the AFC representatives.
Japan won the tournament with a 3–2 final win over South Korea. Both finalists and third-placed Iraq qualified for the Olympics.
Qatar was one of the countries which came forward wishing to host the finals competition. They were selected over the other bidding nations Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The qualifiers draw was held on Thursday, 4 December 2014. A total of 43 teams were drawn into ten groups, with the ten group winners and the five best runners-up qualifying for the final tournament, together with Qatar who qualified automatically as hosts.
Qualification rounds were played between 23–31 March 2015, except for Group B which was scheduled to be held in Lahore, Pakistan, but was postponed due to the Lahore church bombings.
The following 16 teams qualified for the final tournament.
The tournament was hosted in four stadiums, all located in Doha.
The draw for the final tournament was held on 12 September 2015, 12:00 AST (UTC+3), at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar. The 16 teams were drawn into four groups of four teams. The teams were seeded according to their performance in the previous edition in 2013.
The following referees were chosen for the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship.Referees
Players born on or after 1 January 1993 were eligible to compete in the tournament. Each team could register a maximum of 23 players (minimum three of whom must be goalkeepers).
As the tournament was not held during the FIFA International Match Calendar, clubs were not obligated to release the players.
The top two teams of each group advanced to the quarter-finals. Tiebreakers
The teams were ranked according to points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss). If tied on points, tiebreakers would be applied in the following order:
- Greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- Greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- If, after applying criteria 1 to 3, teams still have an equal ranking, criteria 1 to 3 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 5 to 9 apply;
- Goal difference in all the group matches;
- Greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
- Penalty shoot-out if only two teams are involved and they are both on the field of play;
- Fewer score calculated according to the number of yellow and red cards received in the group matches (1 point for a single yellow card, 3 points for a red card as a consequence of two yellow cards, 3 points for a direct red card, 4 points for a yellow card followed by a direct red card);
- Drawing of lots.
All times were local, AST (UTC+3).
In the knockout stage, extra time and penalty shoot-out would be used to decide the winner if necessary.
Winners qualified for 2016 Summer Olympics.
Winner qualified for 2016 Summer Olympics.
The following awards were given at the conclusion of the tournament:6 goals
1 own goal
As per statistical convention in football, matches decided in extra time are counted as wins and losses, while matches decided by penalty shoot-outs are counted as draws.
The following three teams from AFC qualified for the Olympic football tournament.
Qatar, Syria and Yemen each had at least two players born on 1 January 1993, the cut off date for eligibility in this tournament.