Australia will never have a better chance for Asian glory

Rhyan Grant, Diego Castro and Adama Traore (Left to right) Source: Getty Images

Almost nine months after it paused, the 2020 AFC Champions League resumes on Sunday and while it has been a bit of a saga, there is no reason why an Australia team can’t lift the trophy after the final against Persepolis of Iran on December 18.

The playing field when it comes to the continent’s flagship tournament has never been more level. 

There has been talk over the years of how A-League teams can struggle to compete financially with some of Asia’s biggest clubs but this time, the big-name Brazilian stars will perhaps not be as decisive as in the past.  

This time, the team that emerges triumphant in Qatar, where the rest of the tournament will take place, will have to be mentally strong.

Team spirit and determination will never play a bigger part in winning the AFC Champions League and this is something that the A-League trio should have in spades.

Not just that, with most opponents just finishing or about to finish tiring domestic seasons, the Australians are fresh. 

The one downside is that of the games played so far, only Melbourne Victory have won though there is plenty of time for Sydney FC and Perth Glory to change that. 

Sydney FC 

Sydney are set to be without defender Ryan McGowan, who has contracted coronavirus while spending time with family in Scotland, and goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne has decided to stay home to be with his pregnant wife and not travel to Qatar for what could be over a month. 

After a point from the first two games against Yokohama F.Marinos and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Sydney need a good result against Shanghai SIPG on Thursday to kick start their campaign to get out of the group stage for only the second time (a shockingly bad record for such a club) and there are positive signs. 

Normally, no competitive games since August would be an issue but it is better than the opposite.

Shanghai have just finished their domestic season, one that has seen them stuck in a hotel together for the past four months.

There are clear signs of disunity in the squad at a time when team spirit, with everyone stuck in a Qatar hotel for the next month or so, has never been more important.

Big-money signing Marko Arnautovic is likely to be absent on international duty. 

Jeonbuk have also just finished the season in Korea where they won the league and cup double but are saying goodbye to legendary striker Lee Dong-gook and their coach Jose Morais.

Yokohama F. Marinos collected six points from a possible six back in February but are not looking quite so smooth now after playing 32 games in the past four and a half months and splitting their squad in two as the J.League continues alongside the Champions League.

Melbourne Victory 

Victory are level with Beijing Guoan and FC Seoul in Group E on three points each and kick off with back to back games against the Chinese team.

The A-League side will be without winger Robbie Kruse with a knee problem but apart from that, it is looking good. 

Beijing are a dangerous opponent but will be without star striker Cedric Bakambu for the beginning stages.

The Chinese Super League top scorer is on AFCON qualification duty with DR Congo.

Seoul have endured a poor season, finishing in the bottom half of the K-League, and after being turned down by Graham Arnold, are still without a coach. 

It could be that by the time Victory take on Chiangrai United, the Thai team, with two losses in two so far, could be out of the running.

This year is surely the one in which Melbourne make a major mark in Asia. 

Perth Glory

Way back in February, Perth’s first ever game in Asia ended in defeat to FC Tokyo. The West Australians may be missing new signing Andy Keogh who is still registered as a foreign player at a time when Glory but other teams have bigger problems.  

First opponents Shanghai Shenhua have a whole raft of injuries and could not fill their substitute bench in their final domestic game of the season.

Ulsan Horangi of South Korea will be dangerous but the Tigers are still reeling from throwing away the title at home and losing the FA Cup final to Jeonbuk all in the space of a few days. F

our of their players will arrive late in Qatar as they are on national team duty. 

A tired-looking Tokyo are still fighting for a top-three spot in the J.League at the same time and that will be a huge test.  

Perth, and the other Australian representatives, will never have a better chance of going far in Asia.

Source SBS The World Game