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(LEAD) S. Korean teams at Asian football tournament to resume group stage in Malaysia

All News 15:35 July 28, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS K League's reaction in paras 9-13)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- When Asia's top club football competition resumes in October, two South Korean teams will wrap up their group stage in the centralized location of Malaysia.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced Tuesday that Malaysia will host the remaining Group G and Group H matches for the AFC Champions League. They're scheduled to run from Oct. 17-Nov. 1.

Two K League 1 clubs are affected by the latest announcement: the Suwon Samsung Bluewings in Group G and the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Group H.

This file photo from Feb. 19, 2020, shows mask-wearing fans attending an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League match between the home team Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Vissel Kobe at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

There are two other South Korean teams in the group phase: FC Seoul in Group E and Ulsan Hyundai FC in Group F. The centralized venue for their matches will be determined later, the AFC said.

The AFC Champions League, with eight groups of four clubs in action, kicked off in February but was put on hold after a couple of matches due to the COVID-19 outbreak across the continent.

Back on July 9, the AFC said Groups E to H, with clubs from South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, China and Japan, will return to action on Oct. 16 and wrap up their group play on Nov. 1.

The top two teams from each group will qualify for the knockout stage.

At the break, Suwon ranked last in Group G with two losses, while Jeonbuk were in second place in Group H with one point from one draw and one loss.

A K League official said Tuesday the South Korean league may have to adjust its fixture later in October, since its matches will overlap with the AFC tournament.

"There could be some changes to the AFC Champions League depending on the situation with COVID-19," the official said. "We'll keep an eye on the development and adjust our match fixture accordingly before September."

The K League's schedule has already been shortened from 38 matches to 27 matches this year, because the opening kickoff was delayed by more than two months from Feb. 29 to May 8 due to the pandemic.

The above league official said there will be no further reduction of the season and added that clubs may have to play more matches on weekdays. So far, most matches have been played on weekends.

The four K League clubs that travel to Malaysia for the AFC Champions League will also have to be quarantined for 14 days upon returning home. The league official said there has been no discussion with the national health authorities on any potential exemptions for football players.

Groups A to D are made up of teams from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar and Uzbekistan. They will play the rest of their group matches in September in Qatar.

Also, all knockout matches, including the championship final, will now be one-and-done affairs, instead of the usual home-and-away series where the aggregate score determines the winners.

In this file photo from Feb. 19, 2020, Yeom Ki-hun of Suwon Samsung Bluewings (R) shakes hands with Andres Iniesta of Vissel Kobe following their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Group G match at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)


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