Recap: 2018 AFC Under-19 Qualification
From the 4th to 8th of November 2017, Mongolia hosted Group I of qualification for the 2018 AFC Under-19 Championship at the MFF Football Centre in Ulaanbaatar. The group consisted of Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. Despite difficult losses to Japan and Thailand, the team had reason to celebrate following the its final match.
Mongolia, coached by Erchim FC manager Zorigtyn Battulga, opened qualification with a predictable result, a 7-0 loss to Japan, the favorites to win the group. The result would have been less disheartening if not for two own goals against Mongolia by Dagvasuren Tsendjav and Erdenechimeg Unur-Erdene in the 37th and 59th minute, respectively.
Two days later the team took the field again, this time against Thailand. Just like the torrential rain that affected the two nations as they battled to a 1-1 draw in July of this year during qualification for the AFC Under-23 championship, severe weather greatly affected the day's proceedings. Snow came down consistently throughout the match and before kickoff. The field crew worked frantically to remove snow from the lines of the goalbox and inside of it. Adding to the level of difficulty was the use of a white ball despite the snow, rather than the orange ball that is typically used under such conditions. Mongolia did not get as favorable of a result against their Thai opponent this time out, ultimately going down 2-5. Mongolia had a chance to make it 1-2 in first half stoppage time but Ganbold Ganbayar's penalty kick was stopped by Thai goalkeeper Kantaphat Manpati.Mongolia's goals were scored by Bilguun Damdindorj in the 49th minute and Bat-Orgil Gerelt-Od in the 86th. At least three of Thailand's goals were scored by players that have already made their full professional debuts in the Thai League 1, the top level of football in Thailand.
On the 8th of November, Mongolia faced Singapore with neither team having anything to play for but pride with Japan and Thailand already securing the top two places in the group and, thus, qualification. Again, the harsh winter climate of Mongolia affected play. Things looked grim for Mongolia as Singapore took a 1-0 lead off of a penalty kick by Muhammad Danial Syafiq in only the 22nd minute. Singapore extended their lead with a strike by Saifullah Akbar three minutes later with a long range shot that caught keeper Tsendjav Dagvasuren off his line. For consolation, Jansyerik Maratkhan scored in the 40th minute off of a penalty after a teammate was taken down inside the Singapore box to pull back a goal before entering the halftime break .
Mongolia entered the second half renewed and battled for an equalizing goal which finally came in the form of Maratkhan's second of the night in the 53rd minute. The match seemed like it would end in a 2-2 draw before Mongolia put on the pressure in the final minutes of the match. The Mongolian team and bench erupted as Jansyerik Maratkhan rounded out his hattrick in the 87th minute to secure the victory. To top off the match, Mongolian wunderkind and Puskas Akademia FC player Ganbold Ganbayar received a breakout pass from defender Bat-Orgil Gerelt-Od in the 92nd minute and made an individual run past two defenders before executing a clinical finish. The match ended with a 4-2 victory for Mongolia.
The victory ensured that Mongolia would finish third in the group and, thus, avoid finishing at the bottom of the table. Japan finished first in the group with nine points and Thailand earning second place with six points. Those two teams will compete in the final round of the tournament in Indonesia from 18 October to 4 November 2018.