Preview: Chonburi Bluewave team to beat in Group C
Yogyakarta: With the AFC Futsal Club Championship Yogyakarta 2018 just three days away. the-AFC.com previews the four teams in Group C.
Chonburi Bluewave (THA)
Best finish: Champions - 2013, 2017
Appearing in their eighth consecutive AFC Futsal Club Championship, Chonburi Bluewave of Thailand are one of the most consistent futsal clubs in the continent.
The title holders and two-time champions will be out to make tournament history by becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles.
Chonburi won their first title in 2013 but fell short against Nagoya Oceans in the final the following year in Chengdu. In 2016 they ended their campaign in third place behind Nafit Al Wasat and eventual winners Nagoya Oceans.
They returned to the pinnacle of club futsal last year by overcoming Islamic Republic of Iran’s Giti Pasand Isfahan 3-2 in the final.
Inspired by Thai ace Suphawut Thueanklang and Jirawat Sornwichian, who was instrumental in the Shark’s march to the 2017 final in Ho Chi Minh CIty, Chonburi Bluewave are among the early favourites.
Sornwichian was the tournament top scorer last year, scoring an impressive nine goals. The defender amassed seven goals to clinch the top-scorer award in 2016, and will be one to watch.
Al Sailiya SC (QAT)
Qatar’s Al Sailiya will be making their debut in the AFC Futsal Club Championship.
The 2017–18 Qatar Futsal League champions, who rely heavily on local talent, pipped Al Rayyan and Al Sadd for the championship to earn their spot in Yogyakarta.
Pressure will be on Al Sailiya to perform as Qatar’s representative have advanced to the knockout stage on six occasions since the tournament's inception in 2010.
Al Rayyan finished fourth in 2011, 2012, 2017 and reached the knockout stage in 2015, while Al Sadd were runners-up in 2010 - Qatar’s best finish in the tournament.
FC Erem (KGZ)
Appearance: 1 - 2017
Best finish: group stage
FC Erem will be making their second appearance in the competition and represent the aspirations of an emerging force in Asia.
FC Erem surprised many when they beat Vietnam powerhouse Thai Son Nam 5-4 in the 2017 edition group stage and followed that up with a 1-0 win over Vic Vipers.
However, it was not enough for the Kyrgyz Republic club who finished level with Thai Son Nam and UAE’s Al Dhafra FC on six points but lost out on the head-to head factor.
Almost half the Kyrgyz Republic squad are FC Erem players and they will need a repeat performance if they are to emerge as the first club from the country to progress beyond the group stage.
Vic Vipers (Australia)
Best finish: group stage
Vic Vipers will be making their third consecutive appearance in Asia’s premier club futsal event.
The Vipers’ first foray in the AFC Futsal Club Championship China 2014 ended without them registering a point when they were handed a tough draw alongside hosts Shenzen Nanling, Japanese giants Nagoya Oceans and Lokomotiv from Uzbekistan.
Since then though, the Australian side have grown from strength to strength, battling to an impressive 2-2 draw against eventual champions Nagoya Oceans in the group stage in Thailand two years ago.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vic Vipers ended their campaign without a win and will be aiming to turn their fortunes around in Yogyakarta for a chance of making it past the group stage for the first time.
Photos: AFC, Qatar Futsal League