Friday, February 23, 2024

China on knife-edge with Champions League fate in balance (SN)

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 21 May 2008


Chinese hopes of making the AFC Champions League quarter-finals are on a knife-edge with Beijing Guoan needing to win on Wednesday and Changchun having to wait an extra day to discover their fate.

Four teams are already through to the knockout rounds of Asia's premier club competition — Japan's Gamba Osaka, Ubeki side Kuruvchi FC, Saipa of Iran, and Kuwait's Al Qadsia.

With Japan's Urawa Reds receiving a bye as defending champions, three berths remain undecided.

Two will be known on Wednesday but the game between Changchun Yatai and Adelaide United has been postponed until Thursday due to a three-day period of mourning for the victims of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province.

Changchun are placed second in their group with 11 points, two less than Adelaide, and need to beat their Australian rivals to qualify.

A minute's silence will be observed before every match on Wednesday in memory of the earthquake victims and the cyclone casualties in Myanmar, the Asian Football Confederation said.

It also announced a 250,000 US dollar fund to reconstruct football facilities damaged by the quake in Sichuan and a similar sum to help out in Myanmar.

Beijing Guoan know victory is crucial if they want to progress. They are level on 12 points in Group F with J-League champions Kashima Antlers, but the Japanese outfit have a far superior goal difference.

Guoan travel to Vietnam to play Nam Dinh while Kashima are in Thailand to take on Krung Thai Bank.

Beijing coach Lee Jang-soo is not overly confident that his team will be in the knockout rounds.

“The victory in our last match wasn't enough,” he said.

“Obviously the goal difference with the Japanese side is overwhelming. But we are a professional outfit and we will take it very seriously in our last group game.”

In contrast, Kashima coach Oswaldo Oliveria knows his side have the upper hand, but warned against complacency.

“We still have a game to play against the Thai side, but I hope our goal difference will eventually help us qualify,” he said.

The other undecided group is Group C, where Syria's Al Karama and United Arab Emirates side Al Wahda have everything to play for.

Karama have a two point advantage going into Wednesday's home game against Al Ahli, putting the pressure on Al Wahda who must beat Al Saad in the Qatari capital Doha.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, Al Wahda coach Mohammed Kwid remains upbeat about his side's chances.

“I feel we can still qualify,” he said. “We are very strong at home and Al Ahli are already out of the competition and their morale will be really low.”

All the other ties are dead rubbers, with teams playing for nothing more than pride and experience.


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