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ACL draw released; things look up for Guangzhou and Guizhou

The Asian Champions League groups were released today to much excitement, as this is a sign we’re one step closer to the 2013 football season. As any football fan knows, in the off-season, you have to take what you can get, and the group draw as well as the schedule release means that fans can get excited and start making travel plans. The AFC website dissed the Chinese teams, misspelling Guizhou and not even including Jiangsu in their respective group, but have since corrected these mistakes. Here are the East Asia groups:

Group E
FC Seoul (KOR)
Brisbane Roar (AUS) or Buriram United (THA)
Vegalta Sendai (JPN)
Jiangsu Sainty (CHN)

Debutants Jiangsu get stuck with the Korean champs, the Thai or Aussie cup winners, and the J-League runners up. If it turns out to be Brisbane, it will be a nightmare for the CSL runners up, a tough group and a long road trip to Australia. Many CSL watchers don’t have high hopes for the Nanjing side in 2013, this draw isn’t going to help.

Group F
Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR)
SCG Muangthong United (THA)
Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)

Last year Evergrande were stuck in the “group of death”, this year it doesn’t get a whole lot easier dealing with Jeonbuk, the most experienced ACL side in East Asia, and Muangthong, the Thai champs. Add in solid J-League side Urawa and you have a tough group, but one that the Cantonese giants should expect to get out of.

Group G
Sanfrecce Hiroshima (JPN)
Beijing Guoan (CHN) 
Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Bunyodkor (UZB)

Everyone’s always looking for a “group of death” and if one group deserves that label, its probably this one. Unfortunately (at least it is to me), this is the group that Guoan’s stuck in. J-League champs Sanfrecce are everyone’s favorite, but Pohang is solid themselves, having won the Korean cup (and also qualifying by finishing 3rd in the league). Of course, nobody’s looking forward to visiting Tashkent and going head-to-head against 2012 semifinalists Bunyodkor. I’m rarely an optimist when it comes to Guoan, but this group seriously scares me.

Group H
Central Coast Mariners (AUS)
Knockout Cup Champions (JPN)
Guizhou Renhe (CHN) 
Suwon Bluewings (KOR)

Now to be in Guizhou’s position, that would be nice. True, they have the Aussie champs Central Coast, but if that away trip fell in the right spot in the schedule, it wouldn’t be so bad.  They’ll have to wait to see who the Japanese Emperor’s Cup winner is, but it should be a manageable opponent. Plus, the Korean side Suwon, is only in because Pohang won the Korean cup. Depending on what Guizhou does in the offseason, I’d have high hopes for them to perform well.

Be sure to share what you think of your favorite side’s draw today? Which, if any, Chinese sides will go through?

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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