North Korea squeezed through to the quarter-finals with a 2-2 draw against Thailand ©AFC

North Korea squeezed through to the quarter-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championships as they drew 2-2 with Thailand at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha.

The North Korean side only manage to secure a last eight berth by virtue of scoring more goals against Thailand and fellow Group B opponents Saudi Arabia than their two rivals after all three teams finished on the exact same record of two points.

Kim Yong-il scored his second goal of the tournament to give North Korea the lead after just 17 minutes but Narubadin Weerawatnodom replied with an equaliser shortly after.

Yun Jong-su’s team then seized the initiative once again as they went back in front on the stroke of half-time thanks to Yun Il-gwang’s close-range effort.

With just 12 minutes remaining, Thailand’s Chanathip Songkrasin equalised and neither side could find a winner, leaving all three teams in the group on an identical points tally.

North Korea and Thailand also finished on a goal difference of minus one having each scored five and conceded six during the group stage, but Yun’s side emerged victorious from the three-way tie.

In the other match to take place in Group B today, already-qualified Japan ensured they ended the first phase of the tournament with a 100 per cent record by beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 at the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium.

The result saw Saudi Arabia miss out on a place in the quarter-finals by the narrowest of margins as they fell just one goal short of the last eight.

North Korea will take on Qatar in the next round while Japan will face Iran.

Saudi Arabia missed out on a place in the last eight as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Japan
Saudi Arabia missed out on a place in the last eight as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Japan ©AFC

“We had a very fierce match because both teams had to win if they wanted to qualify,” Yun said.

“Both teams’ put in a very good performance.

“We had a lot of chances in the first half and in the second half but I never thought we were going to lose this game because I trusted the players and they did their best to the end so I had no worries about that.

“We knew if we go to the next round we will play Qatar, the hosts.

“It’s going to be a very tough match all of the players will have to show their best in terms of mentality and physical condition.”

In Group C, South Korea were denied victory against Iran as Amjad Waleed Hussein netted a stoppage time leveller to give his side a 1-1 draw.

The South Koreans had opened the scoring in the 22nd minute thanks to Kim Hyun and despite the stalemate, they clinched top spot in the group.

Both teams had already guaranteed themselves a spot in the last eight.

Uzbekistan managed to end their campaign on a high as they claimed a comfortable 3-1 win over pointless Yemen.

The top three teams at the end of the tournament will earn a place in the Olympic football competition at Rio 2016.