Weary Saudi champions arrive in Hong Kong on victory mission

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am

Newly crowned Saudi Arabian champions Al-Hilal have vowed to win the Asian Club Championship despite exhaustion after a busy season.

They arrived in the SAR yesterday to prepare for their semi-final match against defending champions Pohang Steelers of South Korea on Friday at the Hong Kong Stadium.

After the long flight via Manila, coach Balaci Ilie said they had played too many games in the past season.

'We have played 43 games since the end of last September. I think it's too much,' said the Romanian.

'And we just played last Friday in the grand final of the Saudi Arabian league championship.

'Some of our players are exhausted, but we are here to win.' Al-Hilal have a good record in Asian Club competitions. They won the Asian Club Championship in 1991, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1996, the Asian Super Cup in 1997 in which they beat Pohang, and the Gulf Championship this year.

Al-Hilal are travelling with six of their seven Saudi Arabia internationals.

They include Turki Awad, Ahmed Aldosari, Khamis Aldossari, Khalid Altemawi, Sami Al Jaber and Nawaf Abuthenian.

Club and national skipper Yussif Altunian, who will play his last World Cup finals in France, is resting at home after a leg operation.

Former Asian Footballer of the Month Al Jaber said they were looking to advance to at least the quarter-finals in France.

'In the last World Cup in the United States we were beaten in the second round. This time we would like to get through to the final eight,' said Al Jaber.

'I know it's not easy because we are in a strong group with France, Denmark and South Africa.

'But we have confidence and will try our best.' Iranian side Pirouzi failed to show up as scheduled last night. The HKFA do not know the reason for their non-arrival.