Yogyakarta: As the dust settles on the AFC Futsal Club Championship Indonesia 2018, the-AFC.com reviews the clubs who were dominant and the ones who showed promise.
Mes Sungun continued IR Iran’s proud record in the competition when they became the fourth Iranian club to win the Continental club championship.
They join the ranks of Foolad Mahan (2010), Giti Pasand Isfahan (2012) and Tasisat Daryaei (2015).
Mes Sungun started their campaign as title favourites despite being newcomers in the tournament. The club followed the script and marched easily into the Knockout Stage.
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Their real tests came when they faced Iraq’s Nafit in the semi-finals and Vietnam’s Thai Son Nam in the final.
Nafit held Mes Sungun 1-1 at halftime but fell 3-2 when the Iranians scored twice in the second half. In the final, the champions came from a goal down in the first half to defeat Thai Son Nam 4-2.
Head coach Hamid Bigham Tabrizi had a star-studded cast of Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh, Hossein Tayebibidgoli, Alireza Samimi and Farhad Fakhim at his disposal and the Iranians showed their prowess on court throughout the competition.
ASEAN clubs impress
For the first time in the AFC Futsal Club Championship, three ASEAN clubs reached the Knockout Stage - Vamos FC, Bluewave Chonburi and Thai Son Nam.
Vamos set the bar high for Indonesia when they created history by becoming the first Indonesian team to qualify for the Knockout Stage of the competition.
Head coach Reza Falahzadeh brought inexperienced players into the tournament and his faith in the youngsters paid off as they fought gallantly to reach the last-eight stage.
Captain Syahidansyah Lubis was the anchor around Iqbal Aliefian, Mostafa Nazari, Dennis Guna Bawana and Bagus Himawan, who impressed the most, while Marvin Alexa Wossiry was their standout player.
The hosts performed admirably against Nafit in the quarter-finals as they fought tooth and nail to force extra time following a 4-4 deadlock in normal regulation. However, Nafit kicked up a notch to end the tie 7-4.
Thai Son Nam were made to work hard to reach the final but their journey only shows the resilience and work ethics of the Vietnamese players.
They lost 4-3 to Nafit in their second group match. But the Vietnam club came back strongly to beat Al Dhafra in their final group game to finish second.
Thai Son Nam became the only ASEAN team left in the competition after ousting three-time champions Nagoya Oceans 3-2 in the quarter-finals and produced a remarkable fightback against Bank of Beirut in the last four.
They held their own against Mes Sungun in the final as they took an early lead and were locked 2-2 at halftime. But Rodrigo’s young side couldn’t contain the Iranians and fell 4-2.
Expect more to come from Thai Son Nam after they improved on their third-place finish achieved in 2015 and 2017.
Shocks: Nagoya and Bluewave’s unexpected loss in the quarter-finals.
Nagoya Oceans had a point to prove after missing last year’s edition at Ho Chi Minh City with Shriker Osaka representing Japan after winning the F.League title.
Nagoya finished top of their group where they only conceded one goal with a perfect win record. Their streak, however, came to an end when Thai Son Nam came back twice from a goal down to beat them 3-2 in extra time.
Head Coach Pedro Costa shouldered the blame for the defeat but expect Nagoya to bounce back in full force next year.
Almost everyone wanted to avoid facing defending champions Bluewave Chonburi in the early stages of the competition as they were powered by established players Kritsada Wongkaeo, Suphawut Thueanklang and Jirawat Sornwichian.
The Thailand club started strongly as they remained unbeaten in the group stage and boasted a prolific scoring record of 21 goals, equalling Mes Sungun. Head coach Rakphol Sainetngam gave his younger players some playing time and they were equally impressive.
However, in the quarter-finals, Bluewave faced Bank of Beirut who edged them 3-2 on penalties following a 7-7 score.
Bank of Beirut were just one win away from reaching the final and their performance was nothing short of impressive.
The Lebanese club dethroned defending champions Bluewave Chonburi in the quarter-finals. Beirut were powered by clinical Iranian Mahdi Javid, who eventually scooped the Most Valuable Player and Top Scorer awards.
Beirut finished third in Yogyakarta after defeating Nafit in the play-off. The West Asians have bettered their past achievement when they reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017.
Apart from Javid who was Beirut’s outstanding player, Ahmad Kheir El Dine, Mouhammad Hammoud, Mohamad Kobeissy and Patrick Vieira Luz all showed their fighting spirit but their journey to the top was halted by Thai Son Nam in the semi-finals.
Nafit Al Wasat, the 2016 runners-up, were crushed when they lost 3-2 to Mes Sungun in the semi-finals but Haitam Abbas Bawei’s side had a memorable tournament and picked up the Fair Play Award.
Nafit Al Wasat progressed into the Knockout Stage as Group B winners following wins against Thai Son Nam (4-3) and Korea Republic’s Jeonju MAG (6-1). The Iraq club’s only blip came in the 1-1 draw against United Arab Emirates’ Al Dhafra in their opener.
In the quarter-finals, Nafit needed extra time to overcame Vamos FC 7-4 after a spirited fightback saw the home side take a 3-2 lead in the second half. Nafit dug deep to equalise in the final minute after conceding two goals to force extra time following a 4-4 deadlock at the end of regulation time.
FC EREM exceeded expectations by qualifying for the Knockout Stage. The Kyrgyz Republic side finished second in their group after holding off Australia's Vic Vipers 4-2.
With almost half of the players from the national team, EREM showed promise in their 8-3 quarter-final defeat to Mes Sungun.
Head coach Daniar Abdraimov had admitted before the clash that it would be like an exam for his charges and EREM passed with flying colours and should be even better moving forward.