HK improvise in final tune-up for UAE clash
Hong Kong's final preparation for their opening soccer match at the Asian Games was thrown into chaos yesterday when they were barred from training at the Huadu Stadium, where they will take on the United Arab Emirates tonight.
Organisers had promised the Hong Kong team they would be allowed to train at the venue to prepare for their group E game, but the Asian Football Confederation said that would be against the rules.
Frantic Hong Kong officials were forced to call their contacts throughout the city before finally finding a ground availble in Panyu, some 50 kilometres away, for their final training session.
'It was important to have a practice session as it was our last chance to rehearse what we have learned and practised over the past couple of weeks,' Hong Kong coach Tsang Wai-chung said.
'I contacted the people in Panyu and they were very helpful.
'But we spent a lot of time trying to resolve the problem and that just added to the pressure on our coaching staff.
'Fortunately, the players were not affected as they were unaware of what was going. They looked sharp in practice.'
Hong Kong will field their strongest team of players against the United Arab Emirates.
'We have to get something from this match,' Tsang said. 'If we lose, we will have a very difficult tournament with two matches left in the group stage.
'The UAE are strong in attack and their players are very fast. Our defence will need to pay full attention and close them down even in midfield.'
The starting line-up will mostly remain the same as their last training match against South China before leaving for Guangzhou on Friday.
Captain Chan Wai-ho (pictured) has played against the United Arab Emirates before, in a friendly ahead of the 2000 World Cup qualifiers.
'The match ended 1-1 so we are not without hope,' Chan said.
The two other teams in the group - Uzbekistan and Bangladesh - will meet in Panyu tonight.