Asian Games 2018

Asian Games 2018: Hong Kong face uphill task in men’s football as Palestine added to group A after ‘redraw’

Hosts Indonesia and reigning champions South Korea both in five-team groups as chaos descends over upcoming tournament

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 10:58pm

Hong Kong’s hopes of making the knockout stages of the men’s football at the Asian Games have been dealt a blow after Palestine joined them in group A after the “redraw” of the tournament at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday afternoon.

Instead of redrawing all of the groups as had been expected, the two teams missing from the original draw – Palestine and UAE – were instead added to existing groups, according to the South Korean FA earlier on Wednesday.

The KFA reported that those plans had been scrapped after the AFC had consulted the Asian Games organisers and the Olympic Council of Asia.

Kenneth Kwok Ka-lok, the coach for Hong Kong’s Asian Games team, said that he is sure Palestine will be a test for his under-23s.

“Palestine is a strong side, reaching the last-16 of the AFC Under-23 tournament last year before losing to Qatar. They have six to seven players who are playing in Europe and we are trying to gather more information on them as I don’t think we have met them in any youth tournament before.”

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He also said that the five-team format makes things more difficult.

“With five teams in the group, our score against the bottom team will not be counted if we have to qualify as one of the best third placed teams, making it more difficult for us.”

Palestine join Hong Kong, hosts Indonesia, Laos and Taipei in group A as everyone awaits fixture confirmation from the AFC.

Kwok fears the delay may prove to be a disruption.

“We are supposed to play the first match on August 14 or 15 and now the schedule will likely put forward to August 10 with one more team in the group, which means we have less lead time to the tournament and that will certainly affect our preparation.”

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The UAE side were added to group E with defending champions South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Bahrain.

A new fixture scheduled is expected to come shortly, with an update to the August 14 to September 1 plan for the 24-team tournament.