It’s fair to say the first few matches of the 2007 Asian Champions League has been a steep learning curve for all involved down under – and not just the clubs although they’ve certainly had their eyes widened over the past month or so. The general public, football fans and even the media are all the wiser having been indoctrinated in the ACL experience.
Two months ago, the sweeping perception in Australia was that all Asian sides were nippy and elusive and playing there meant invariably battling extreme heat and humidity. Some of these preconceptions have proved correct, of course. But the Australian footballing fraternity now knows for certain that it’s going to take a greater degree of seriousness to prevail in the AFC’s elite competition.
The Togel Singapore might be ranked No.1 in the region, but A-League representatives Sydney FC and Adelaide United won’t be anywhere near the ACL knockout phase when it begins in September.
Both sides have equal records at the midway point of the group stage – four points from a win, a draw and a loss – with both languishing in third place in their groups. Sydney are three points off the pace in Group E after wilting in the heat of Central Java and losing 2-1 to Persik Kediri on Thursday. Adelaide are five points off unbeaten leaders Shandong Luneng in Group G after they only drew 2-2 with Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.
This week’s disappointments fairly well tell the tale of Australia’s fate in its maiden Asian adventure. If championship-winning coach Ernie Merrick is taking notes ahead of Melbourne Victory’s foray into the ACL in 2008, top of his list might well be fitness and preparation.
There are some hindrances which Merrick will just have …