AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifying

Hong Kong national team call-ups for Kitchee’s Champions League heroes as crucial North Korea clash draws near

Tarres and Tong of Kitchee called up for Hong Kong’s do-or-die tie against North Korea with teammate Cheng overlooked

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 10:56pm

Kitchee striker Jorge Tarres and defender Tong Kin-man have won places in the Hong Kong national team after helping their club to a first ever AFC Champions League victory for a Hong Kong team – but goalscorer Cheng Chin-lun was overlooked.

The trio were not in the preliminary 31-member list announced for Hong Kong’s must win tie against North Korea next week in the Asian Cup qualifiers. But Tarres and Tong made irresistible claims in the historic 1-0 victory over visitors Kashiwa Reysol of Japan last Wednesday.

Cheng, who scored the wining goal with a fantastic 20-metre strike, which also won the Asian Champions League goal of the week, did not make it despite becoming a fan favourite.

One netizen said Hong Kong would have already qualified and defeated group leaders Jeonbuk Motors of South Korea if they had Cheng in the line-up.

The 23-member squad will travel to Beijing on Wednesday for a training camp before taking on North Korea in Pyongyang next Tuesday in their last group B match.

Hong Kong can still make it to the finals in the United Arab Emirates if they can pull off a famous victory at Kim Il-sung Stadium.

Champions Kitchee still have the most number of players in the squad with six players, despite the absence of two regulars – striker Sandro is suspended from international duty for picking up two yellow cards and midfield powerhouse Huang Yang has a hamstring problem.

Cheng leads the vote but is his unforgettable winner the AFC Champions League goal of the week?

Hong Kong are third in the group with five points, three behind second-placed North Korea. If they can collect all three points, they can finish second in the group on goal difference.

Hong Kong drew 1-1 against North Korea in the home leg in June. Leaders Lebanon have already qualified with 13 points and host Malaysia in Beirut next week.