14 ACL players called-up for the World Cup
Kuala Lumpur: As coaches announce their national team squads ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the eight AFC Champions League quarter-finalists are sending 14 players to the global event in Russia.
With the final eight of the 2018 AFC Champions League decided and the draw conducted, eyes of Asian football fans turn to Russia for the FIFA World Cup, where five Asian nations will be present. Fans of AFC Champions League quarter-finalists will have one eye on their respective clubs' players looking to make a name for themselves in Russia.
A total of 14 players will be representing seven of the eight finalists, testament to the growing profile of the top club competition in Asia. Qatar's Al Duhail are the only side of the eight with no representatives amongst the 736 players competing for international glory next month.
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The Qatari champions were handed a severe blow ahead of the 2018 AFC Champions League round of 16 after their talisman Youssef Msekni suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in April that is set to sideline him until August. Al Duhail’s loss was also Tunisia’s loss as one of the nation’s brightest talents will miss the World Cup, leaving Al Duhail as the only AFC Champions League quarter-finalist with no representatives in Russia.
No single side contributes as many players to Carlos Queiroz’s Islamic Republic of Iran than Esteghlal. Three out of Team Melli’s seven defenders come from the Tehran club; veteran Pejman Montazeri, Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Majid Hosseini. Midfielder Omid Ebrahimi rounds off the Esteghlal quartet heading to Russia next month.
The 2011 AFC Champions League winners may have a World Cup winner in their ranks in club captain Xavi, but their only player travelling to the 2018 edition is IR Iran defender Morteza Pouraliganji.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Four years ago, Jeonbuk had no players in Korea Republic’s squad. Only Australia’s Alex Wilkinson represented the club in Brazil. This time around, the Taeguk Warrior’s setup includes four players from the 2016 AFC Champions League winners; Kim Jin-su, Lee Yong, Lee Jae-sung and Kim Shin-wook.
Last year’s AFC Champions League semi-finalists had four representatives in IR Iran’s World Cup squad four years ago, as many as their Tehran rivals Esteghlal. But while the Blue team are supplying four players to Carlos Queiroz’s squad this year, Persepolis have just two in goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand and winger Vahid Amiri. Club skipper Jalal Hosseini was a surprise exclusion by the Portuguese coach.
Midfielder Kento Misao originally made the preliminary squad for Akira Nishino's side but the 22-year-old did not make the final 23 squad for Russia 2018. There was better news for teammates Gen Shoji and Naomichi Ueda, however with the defensive pair among the younger members of the Samurai Blue team that will take part in the World Cup.
Samsung Suwon Bluewings
The two-time Asian champions do not have any representatives in the Korea Republic World Cup squad, instead their solitary delegate to Russia is Australian defender Matthew Jurman.
The Chinese would have been the only quarter-finalist contributing World Cup players for two different nations with Axel Witsel and Kwon Kyung-won initially called up. Axel Witsel has been a key member of Roberto Martinez’ Belgium side, while Kwon Kyung-won has earned a place in Korea Republic squad. However, in something of a surprise, Kwon did not make the final 23 players named by Shin Tae-yong.
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