The Asian Football Confederation has finalised the draw for the remainder of it’s burgeoning club competition, the Asian Champions League. The draw pitted east Asian clubs against west Asian clubs for the quarter finals, but beyond the last eight it’s possible that east can meet east and west likewise. Hosts of the event also boasted about the 11% increase in overall ACL attendances.
Quarter final one sees 2012 finalists Al Ahli face FC Seoul. The west Asian team from Saudi Arabia boast a midfield dominated by South American midfielders, plus Brazilian striker Victor Simoes, with 12 goals from 19 matches this season. Quarter final two features Iranian super club Esteghlal, and underdogs Buriram United from Thailand. Interestingly for Australian soccer fans Buriram battled their way through Group E (the group this blogger labelled the weakest in the east side of the draw), after defeating Brisbane Roar in a play-off for their place in the ACL. Esteghlal won their group and defeated Al Shabab Al Arabi of UAE to make their way to the quarter finals. The Iranians have averaged crowds of over 24,000 for the ACL plus a phenomenal 80,000 for their clash with Saudis Al Hilal.Quarter final three has Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol hosting Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia. Kashiwa manager Nelsinho had spent a year with Al Shabab’s rivals the aforementioned Al Hilal (93/94), but Kashiwa captain Otani conceded most of the players knew nothing of Al Shabab. Typically conservative the captain said, “We have had good results in the group stage and the Round of 16 and we will fight all out for a place in the semi finals.” Meanwhile quarter final four sees Guangzhou Evergrande hosting Qataris Lekhwiya. The Chinese will be favourites, but they fell to west Asian opposition last year, so Lippi and his men will no doubt be on their toes.
From this point on the tournament will be played with a two legged format, including the final. The first leg of the quarter finals kicks off on 21st August, while teams are forced to wait until 18th September, for the return leg. Important to know is that the winner of quarter final one faces the winner of quarter final two, and winner three will play four. This increases the likelihood of an east Asian showdown between Kashiwa and Guangzhou. The suit wearers at the AFC would be rubbing their hands and drooling at such a possibility.