World's best on Lunar agenda

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 October, 1997, 12:00am

Top-class teams who have qualified for France 1998 are being targeted for January's Carlsberg Cup Lunar New Year tournament - the first under Chinese rule.

But reports suggesting Dennis Bergkamp-led Holland were almost certain to play in the soccer extravaganza were played down by Carlsberg's Derek Currie.

Currie said that, while securing teams who have qualified for France 98 was high on the agenda, Holland would not be leading candidates for the January 28 and 31 event.

'We never looked at Holland as a major contender because most of their Dutch internationals are playing all over the world. Besides, the Dutch league resumes only a week after our tournament. They wouldn't be travelling half the world to play in our tournament so close to the re-start of their league,' he said.

Currie said he would have a clearer picture of who would be coming to the territory once the European World Cup qualifiers were completed on October 11.

'At the moment, we're talking to countries. Most of the World Cup qualifying games in Europe will be concluded on October 11 and, obviously, we're looking at teams who have qualified for France. Our tournament has gained in stature and our options are still open.

'We know most of the South American teams have already qualified and we know some African nations have qualified. We don't want to bring in any second-string teams. We haven't made any decisions now.' Currie said it was always the tournament's intention to sign national teams with a minimum of four of five big-name players.

'We sign national teams as long as the teams come here with the nucleus of their first-choice players. National teams usually have a pool of between 18 to 21 players. This gives the manager a chance to try some of his younger players,' he said.

Currie said it was still a 'bit early' to say whether or not Russia would return to defend their title, stressing again that only countries who have qualified for France would be considered for the Hong Kong tournament.

In the past, the Carlsberg Cup, the territory's biggest annual soccer fixture, has attracted teams like Colombia, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan.

Three years ago, the Carlsberg Cup featured World Cup teams Romania, the United States - who were both pitted in the same World Cup group in USA 94 - and European champions Denmark.

Meanwhile, Sing Tao rebounded from their 1-0 defeat by newly promoted Yee Hope last Sunday by beating Golden 2-1 in the Ericsson League at Mongkok Stadium yesterday.

The Tigers battled back from a goal down to secure the points.

Golden left-winger Wong Kwok-pun put his side ahead in the 24th minute but Sing Tao responded with a 34th-minute equaliser from forward Zeljko Gavrilovic.

Midfielder Chu Yue-tai's looping header in the 64th minute sealed the issue for the Tigers, who have improved to third spot with six points from four games.

In tonight's game, Rangers meet Happy Valley in what is being billed as a 'grudge' match.

Rangers were once under the care of chairman Lam Tai-fai but Lam has joined Happy Valley amid ill-feeling in the Rangers' camp.

Rangers' players are said to be on a $15,000 win bonus each, but manager Philip Lee denied such claims.

Instant-Dict lost 1-0 to Guangdong Winnerway in the Robust Cup Guangdong-Hong Kong Club Championship in Shaoguan yesterday.