Kuala Lumpur: Over the years, the AFC Cup™ has introduced some of the finest talents to the forefront of Asian football, and as we approach the 2022 edition, clubs from the West Zone aiming to go far in the campaign will look for their standout players to show their qualities.
From home-grown players to big money signings to unearthed gems recruited from obscure leagues, the-AFC.com profiles five players who could make the difference to their sides across the three West Zone groups.
Kuala Lumpur:The stage is set for the South Zone of the AFC Cup™ 2022 with Group D to kick off in Kolkata on May 18 as Indian sides ATK Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala as well as Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings and Maziya S&R of the Maldives get set to battle it out for a place in the Inter-Zone semi-finals.
Since the introduction of the zonal format five years ago, a number of stars from the region have shone on the continental stage, none more so than Indian icon Sunil Chhetri, who inspired Karnataka side Bengaluru FC to the knockout rounds in 2017 and 2018.
Elsewhere, Sohel Rana has been among the Bangladeshi players to produce the goods, while the evergreen Ali Ashfaq is always the standout name from a Maldivian perspective.
Ahead of the South Zone beginning in just a few days’ time, the-AFC.com has selected some players to keep an eye out for in the 2022 edition.
Dubai: With the new edition of the AFC Cup kicking off in a few days with the group stage, the-AFC.comtakes a look at how the careers of the MVPs of the previous five editions took shape after starring in the competition.
Hammadi Ahmed won the AFC Cup a record consecutive three times with Iraq’s Air Force Club, picking up the MVP award twice, meaning we have four players, all of whom ended the campaign as continental champions except Manuchehr Dzalilov, who finished runners-up with Istiklol.
Nejmeh’s Siblini eyes return to AFC Cup™ glory days
Beirut: Lebanon’s Nejmeh SC return to the AFC Cup™ after a three-year absence with dreams of replicating, if not bettering, the successes of their mid-2000s side that finished runners-up in 2005 and reached back-to-back semi-finals in 2006 and 2007.
The Beirut-based side travel to Bahrain to take part in Group C alongside Syria’s Tishreen, Palestine’s Hilal Alquds and hosts East Riffa. Striker Mahmoud Siblini spoke to the-AFC.com ahead of the campaign.
Sohel Rana: Bashundhara Kings fully focused on South Zone crown
Dhaka: Sohel Rana grabbed the attention of the continent when he scored a memorable goal at the 2019 AFC Cup™ knockout stage, after helping Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka claim the South Zone title. Three years later, he is set to return to the competition hoping to create further history.
Now in the books of Bashundhara Kings, the 27-year-old is aiming to emulate his heroics this time for his new club. He speaks about his early days in the AFC Cup and his ambitions for the upcoming campaign in an exclusive interview with the-AFC.com.
Kuala Lumpur: With 15 of the 17 AFC Cup™ winners over the years coming from West Asia, the region has long since been dominant in the continental competition.
Since the tournament’s zonal format was introduced in 2017, meanwhile, all four eventual champions have emerged from the West Zone, and teams from that side of the continent will likely be favourites ahead of the rapidly approaching 2022 edition.
As new stars hope to emerge when the campaign kicks off on May 18, the-AFC.com looks back at some of those who lit up the West Zone group stage in recent years.
Dubai: May marks the start of a new AFC Cup™ campaign with the 2022 group stage in the West and South Zones kicking-off on the 18th of the month across four venues in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and India.
This will be the second season in a row the competition takes place in centralised format as the AFC continues to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The-AFC.com profiles each of the four host cities.