Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who will make it?

The six teams who will compete in the finals of the AFC President's Cup in September will be known later today. We already know that Dordoi from Kyrgyzstan and our very own Phnom Penh Crown have made it through as number 1 and 2 in Group B, played in Phnom Penh earlier this week. The qualifiers from Group C, hosted by the capital city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan, are the home club and group winners FC Istiklol and runners-up from Palestine, debutants Al Amma'ri Youth Club. Istiklol beat the Palestinians 1-0 and then bettered FC Balkan from Turkmenistan 2-1 in their final match, played in front of 9,000 spectators, with a penalty ten minutes from time. Istiklol made it through to the finals of the competition last season as well. In Group A, being played in Lahore, Pakistan, last year's cup winners Taiwan Power Company from Chinese Taipei have already made it through and will decide who will join them, when they meet home team KRL later tonight. A defeat for the Pakistani team would leave the door open for the team from Mongolia, Erchim to make the final cut. Taiwan beat Erchim 1-0 a couple of days ago with a stoppage time winner. Earlier, KRL had played out a goalless draw with Erchim in front of a few hundred spectators, amid tight security. So tight in fact that members of the international press couldn't even get into the ground to watch the game.

The hosts of the finals, to be played 24-30 September, will be announced once the six teams are known. One of them will be selected as the hosting team and federation. We already know that Kyrgyzstan are desperate to host the final stage once again, they last held it in 2008, and have made their intentions clear that they wish to progress to the AFC Cup next season. Pakistan hosted the finals in 2007, Kyrgyzstan in 2008, Tajikistan in 2009 and Chinese Taipei last year. That may prompt the AFC to consider allowing one of the other finalists to host this year's competition finale.
Update: In the final match of the qualifying stage, home team Khan Research Laboratories from Pakistan drew 0-0 with Taiwan Power Company in front of just 500 fans and both teams progress into the competition finals, leaving Erchim from Mongolia to contemplate what might have been. In case you were wondering, only ten teams completed out of the twelve who were originally scheduled to take part in this year's AFC President's Cup Group stage. Two teams dropped out citing safety reasons.

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