Hong Kong faces chilly reception in Uzbekistan for Asian Cup qualifier

Snow, injuries to players and lack of training put team on back foot for Asian Cup qualifier

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2013, 5:03am

As if facing Uzbekistan in the Tashkent snow wasn't enough, Hong Kong enter their 2015 Asian Cup qualifier tonight on the back of their worst preparation ever for an international match.

Only a small squad of 18 players, including three goalkeepers, left on Sunday for the Uzbek capital for their opening match in group E, which also features the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Ever since the announcement of a 30-member training squad last month, acting Hong Kong coach Kim Pan-gon has found it difficult to get all his players together for training, because of a hectic domestic schedule.

Kim was also forced to cut the number of practice sessions from eight to six, and the squad has had just one warm-up match, instead of the three originally planned.

Kim had picked a 20-member squad to travel to Tashkent, but two of them - South China's Kwok Kin-pong and Lee Wai-lim - suffered injuries during a First Division match against Sun Pegasus on Saturday.

Amid the unfavourable conditions, captain Chan Wai-ho said the team would be happy with a draw.

"It's going to be tough in Uzbekistan because we have never played in such cold weather. We're going to have to defend well.

"If we can return home with a point then it will be a big boost for our confidence. Uzbekistan is the toughest team in our group."

Meanwhile, China coach Jose Antonio Camacho hopes his side can put an end to a recent run of poor results when they travel to Saudi Arabia to take them on in a group C match.

The Spaniard signed a deal in 2011 but then saw his team fail to qualify for the World Cup three months later. Since June, they have lost four friendlies and won just once.

Now, 18 months into Camacho's reign, China take to the field at Dammam's Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Stadium, with the coach's future very much on the line.

Chinese Football Association vice-president Yu Hongchen said: "I believe Camacho and the coaching team can handle this. The Asian Cup qualifying is a six-match run so we will do our best against the Saudis."

Iraq and Indonesia are the other teams in group C.