Only a win will do for SAR

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am

A depleted Hong Kong under-23 team will need to beat Syria to keep their Olympic hopes alive when the two sides meet in a group B qualifying match at Hong Kong Stadium tonight.

Having lost their opening match to Japan in Tokyo two weeks ago, the SAR squad need nothing less than a victory at home in order to finish in the top two of the group, which includes Malaysia.

'I know a draw will not be enough as we need to win to boost our hopes for next year's Olympic Games, but it is going to be difficult as we have a long casualty and suspension list,' coach Kenny Lai Sun-cheung said.

'We need to play to the standard we managed in the interport match against Guangdong in January when we won 4-2 at home, or we will have little chance.'

Defender Tong Kin-man of Happy Valley received his second yellow card in the match against Japan, while Citizen midfielder Leung Chun-pong was given his marching orders in the same match. Both players will miss tonight's match.

Sweeper Lin Junsheng and centre half Li Hang-wui are also doubtful. Lin is still suffering from a fever, while Li hurt his head during training.

Youngster Chan Siu-yuen of Rangers, Leung Kam-fai of Happy Valley and Chan Ming-kong of Hong Kong 08 will be asked to take on the responsibilities in the middle of defence, assisted by fullbacks Kwok Kin-pong of South China and Wu Haopeng of Citizen.

They need to check Mohnd Al Ebrahim - the most dangerous man in the Syrian attack who netted all three goals in a 3-1 win over Malaysia in their last match.

The top two teams from each of the six groups in Asia will qualify for the next stage before the number is trimmed down to three teams after the final qualification round. The three will then join hosts China, the automatic qualifiers, as the Asian representatives in Beijing next year.

Syria are currently second in the group, with Hong Kong bottom.