Big test for HK

Sports | AGENCIES 14 Nov 2019

Hong Kong's football team will take on a "very strong" Bahrain side at Hong Kong Stadium tonight, looking to get their campaign in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying back on track.

The match, which kicks off at 8pm, comes amid the political unrest in the SAR which has crippled the city's transport system for the past three days.

Bahrain stunned Asian powerhouse Iran 1-0 at home last month, putting them level with Iraq at the top of Group C in second round qualifying.

"I am not surprised that they beat Iran in the qualifiers. Bahrain is a very strong team, a very fast team and technically-gifted," Hong Kong coach Mixu Paatelainen said. "It will be a very big test for us."

Hong Kong, in contrast, are bottom of the group with one point in three games - a 1-1 draw with Cambodia followed by defeats to Iraq and Iran.

But Paatelainen could be buoyed by the team's brave stand in the 2-0 loss to Iraq in their last outing in Basra.

Besides regular faces such as goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai, Huang Yang, Tan Chun-lok and Alessandro Leonardo, several in-form players have been recalled for the match, including veteran Giovane Da Silva and 'keeper Tse Tak-him.

Midfielder Alex Akande is also in the team.

"The Hong Kong players are fantastic and their attitude is unbelievable in training. First class," Paatelainen said.

It remains to be seen how the ongoing political unrest would affect the match.

The Hong Kong Football Association had already been fined by world football's governing body Fifa after fans disrupted the national anthem at the qualifier against Iran in September.

Fifa's Disciplinary Commission fined the federation 15,000 Swiss francs (HK$118,690) and reprimanded fans for the "disturbance".

Meanwhile, for Iraqis opposed to the Baghdad government and its sponsor Teheran, there is even more than football at stake when their team face Iran today in Jordan.

Anti-regime rallies in the capital's Tahrir Square have faded in recent days but could get a boost from an Iraq win in the match, which originally was set to be played in Basra.

?Australian striker Sam Kerr will test herself at the top level of European football after impressing in her homeland and the United States as she joined Chelsea yesterday. The 26-year-old Matildas captain signed a 2 1/2-year contract with the Women's Super League club.

?Former Newcastle forward Faustino Asprilla has claimed a drug trafficker offered to murder ex-Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert after an on-field clash between the South American pair. The former Colombia international said the extraordinary offer came in 1997.

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