Lekhwiya midfielder Nam Tae-hee has lit up the 2017 AFC Champions League so far with impressive performances and eye-catching goals, but the Korea Republic international is hoping for even greater success at this year’s continental competition ahead of his club’s match against the UAE’s Al Jazira today.
After two wins and two draws in Lekhwiya’s first four continental ties the Qatari side sit top of Group B and a win over the already-eliminated Emirati team would see them assured of a Round of 16 place for a third straight AFC Champions League edition.
The 25-year-old Nam, though, is already dreaming of matching and improving upon the quarter-final placings the side achieved in 2015 and 2013.
“I’ve been involved with the AFC Champions League as a Lekhwiya player from day one,” said Nam, a Reading FC Youth Academy graduate.
“When I joined Lekhwiya, we were a young team and we were really looking forward to taking part in the AFC Champions League at that time.
“I was so excited when I scored for Lekhwiya in our first-ever match in the AFC Champions League [in 2012]. To be honest, I was a bit nervous playing in this big Asian tournament, because I was so young at the time.
“The best result we got so far was the quarter-final, but I hope we can reach the semi-final and then the final and then lift the trophy. This is the best result I can imagine.”
Although it is still early in the year to speculate who will reach November’s final, let alone win the tournament, should Nam and Lekhwiya go all the way it would be just the second time a Qatari side has lifted the AFC Champions League trophy – Al Sadd did so in 2011 – since the tournament revamp in 2002-2003.
A second continental title for Qatar would further underline the footballing development the Gulf nation has been pursuing ahead of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“The Qatar League and Qatar football has been developing a lot recently, I can really feel it” added Nam, who was at Valenciennes FC in France before joining Lekhwiya in 2012.
“I am definitely enjoying my football here more than I was in Ligue 1.
Lekhwiya, who welcome Mohammed Tresor back from suspension, suffered a 3-2 reversal at the hands of El Jaish in the Qatar Cup semi-final on Saturday, while Al Jazira need just two points to wrap up their domestic title after defeating Al Shabab 3-0 in their previous league match.
Meanwhile, first meets second in Tehran as Group A leaders Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates travel to Azadi Stadium to take on Esteghlal with both sides eyeing the win that would see them put one foot in the last 16 of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
Al Ahli got the better of the first encounter between the teams when they ran out 2-1 victors in February but after four games the sides remain level on seven points. The visitors will go into the clash full of confidence having not lost since late February and on the back of a 10-day break since defeating Al Wahda in the Arabian Gulf League in mid-April.
Hosts Esteghlal’s only defeat on the continent came against Al Ahli in what has been an otherwise impressive campaign to date. A second successive win in front of home support would make the two-time Asian champions strong favourites to advance to a first knockout phase since 2013.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
S Africa restrict England to 116-6 at rainy Lord’s
India present huge challenge for transformed Zimbabwe
Jacobs, Lueckenkemper take Euro 100m golds
Ceccon claims 100m backstroke gold, Proud wins 50m freestyle
With defeat to Raducanu, Serena running out of time
PSV rescue Rangers draw as Obispo spares Benitez’s blushes in play-offs
Ronaldo blasts ‘lies’ over United future
FIFA agrees to cancel Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier
South Africa skipper Elgar sick of ‘Bazball’ talk