Can an A-League side win the AFC Champions League?

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The Wanderers won it on their first attempt but since then, no A-League side has come close to replicating that miracle with Asian Champions League campaigns often ending in disappointment for clubs.

The question has been asked since 2014 and will likely be asked for years to come. Can an Australian team ever win the Asian Champions League again?

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What the Wanderers did was nothing short of remarkable. They finished top of the ladder in the first league season and then in their first intercontinental campaign, they won a thrilling two leg final against Al-Hilal to become the first A-League side to win the ACL.

Since then, there has not been a side able to replicate that miracle and the furthest an Australian side has gotten is the Round of 16. Both Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC made it out of the group in 2016, but no one has even accomplished that since then.

Sydney’s 2020 campaign started off in the worst possible fashion, as they were smashed by four goals at the hands of Ange Postecoglou’s Yokohama F Marinos. It will sound incredibly pessimistic, but it does not look good for the Sky Blues.

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They still have to come up against Chinese powerhouse Shanghai SIPG F.C, who are spearheaded by Brazilian starts Oscar and Hulk, as well as former West Ham Star Marko Arnautovic. Add in Korean powerhouse Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and it is looking grim for the Sydney siders.

What was evident in Sydney’s match against Yokohama was that there is a clear gulf in class between the A-League and the rest of Asia. For a side that is 13 points clear at the top of the table to be beaten so convincingly is certainly alarming for the rest of the league.

Out of a total of 14 countries that have participated in the ACL, Australia is ranked 10th in terms of trophies won, with one first place and one runner-up (Adelaide United in 2008).

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With Sydney’s dominance of the league, and the quality of players that the top teams have, it is a wonder that they are yet to put in a memorable campaign. Some might say that an Australian side will never win the AFC Champions League again. It should be said that an Australian side will go all the way, but it’s just a matter of when.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Declan Smith
Current Sports Media student at University of Canberra. Average footballer