EAFF Championship: Hong Kong dealt injury blow after Japan humiliation with Leung Nok-hang ruled out
- Versatile Zhejiang defender will not join up with Jorn Andersen’s squad because of ankle problem
- Hong Kong face South Korea in Nagoya on Sunday before clash against China next Wednesday
It was hoped the arrival of Zhejiang star Leung might strengthen Jorn Andersen’s defence for the two remaining games against South Korea and China. But the Chinese Super League star’s ankle injury has stopped him from joining the team.
“I have injured my ankle while playing for Zhejiang and the doctors have advised me to rest for at least 10 days,” said Leung, who missed Tuesday’s game as he was also waiting for a visa to enter Japan.
“A medical report has been sent to my club and also the Hong Kong team to explain the situation. Now I have to wait for next year’s Asian Cup before I can don the Hong Kong colours again.”
The 27-year-old has been a regular choice in defence for Hong Kong, playing in both the 2019 EAFF Championship in Busan, South Korea and the 2022 World Cup Asian zone qualifiers.
However, he did not join the team for last month’s Asian Cup qualifiers in India, along with other players who are plying their trade in mainland China, with their clubs reportedly pressuring them into not travelling for the games.
Leung moved from Meizhou Hakka to Zhejiang Greentown in early 2021 for a reported transfer fee of HK$12 million – a record for a Hong Kong player.
His elder bother Leung Kwun-chung, who plays for Eastern Long Lions in the Hong Kong Premier League, is also a member of the national team, playing mainly as a left back.
Meizhou’s Vas Nunez, who made his international debut for Hong Kong at centre back against Japan on Tuesday, was disappointed with the result but still proud of his milestone moment.
“It’s not a dream debut as we lost 6-0,” Nunez said. “But I think I did all right and am happy to get a cap for the national team and help the boys.
“It’s like more than an experience – it’s a learning curve from here, and I hope the team build and we can continue to do well for the later games.”
Midfielder Ju Yingzhi said Japan were in a class of their own, and it was difficult for Hong Kong to match their opponents in every department.
“They are a much better side,” Ju said. “They passed the ball well and even as a midfielder, I hardly had any chance to get on the ball. But this is good learning experience and I hope we can do better in our two remaining games.”
The team left Ibaraki after the match and arrived in Nagoya on Wednesday, where they will take on South Korea at Toyota Stadium on Sunday before their last match against China at the same venue three days later.
The tournament continued on Wednesday, with three-time defending champions South Korea playing China in Toyota.
China had been expected to host the tournament but relinquished their rights because of the Chinese government’s ongoing attempts to enforce a zero-Covid policy nationwide.