A-League teams need to step it up in AFC Champions League

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If we want to be the best, we need to beat the best, and A-League teams struggle to make that a norm in the AFC Champions League.

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Australian football clubs have so far participated in 14 AFC Champions League campaigns. Still, they have not developed a threatening presence.

Two A-League clubs have managed to reach the final – Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers.

In 2014, the Wanderers were the first and only Australian club to win the AFC Champions League. Still, some would argue their second-leg performance was not title worthy.

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However, between seven A-League clubs, they have failed to get past the group stage 23 times, four times in the round of 16, and three times in the quarter-finals.

When Australia first transferred to AFC in 2006, the expectation was not high for the Champions League. In fact, it was impressive that Adelaide made it to the final in the first two seasons.

They faced Japan’s Gamba Osaka. Despite a 3-0 loss in the first-leg and a 2-0 loss in the second, it was still a boost of confidence and belief for the football fans back at home to compete at the highest level.

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Unfortunately, we had to wait six years until another A-League side reached the final.

The A-League, at times, can produce good quality football. The passion and the atmosphere can also be incredible without a doubt.

However, it gives us a sense of false hope when we eventually play overseas and face opponents who produce a higher quality of football.

When Graham Arnold was in charge of Sydney FC, he was able to turn Sydney into a powerful squad that went on to win two premiers and one championship.

Many believed they had the potential to go on and win the Champions League. This was not the case.

In 2016, Sydney topped their group only to be knocked out of the round of 16 against Shandong Luneng on away goals and finished third in the group stage in 2018.

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It’s been six years since an A-League side has reached the final and by the look of things, it could be longer.

Many factors could be blamed for the slightly under average to average performance.

Low income for the players, not enough government funding, not attracting more prominent names, lack of academies etc.

However, the A-League teams need to work with what they have and prove that we can still compete convincingly in Asia’s most prestigious tournament.

Feature image credit: The Football Sack 

 

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Daniel Gualterio
Bachelor of Sports Media student from Charles Sturt University covering Macarthur FC. Passionate for the world game.