Japan and Korea Republic dominate as last 16 set in Asia

12 Jul 2021
  • The 2021 AFC Champions League group stage concluded on Sunday

  • Eight teams from the East Zone complete the Round of 16 line-up

  • Three teams from Japan and four from Korea Republic advanced

The group campaign of Asia's race for continental glory and passage to the FIFA Club World Cup™ concluded on Sunday with eight teams from the East Zone joining the already-qualified West Zone representatives in the Round of 16. Four K League sides and three J.League teams advanced, leaving Thai side BG Pathum United to complete the line-up. The Round of 16 campaign is scheduled to take place 13-15 September in single-leg ties. The final will be staged on 23 November with the victors representing the continent at the global showpiece at Japan 2021. Groups (East Zone)

Group F: *Ulsan Hyundai, *BG Pathum United, Viettel, Kaya–Iloilo Group G: *Nagoya Grampus, *Pohang Steelers, Johor Darul Ta'zim, Ratchaburi Mitr Phol Group H: *Jeonbuk Motors, Gamba Osaka, Chiangrai United, Tampines Rovers Group I: *Kawasaki Frontale, *Daegu FC, United City, Beijing FC Group J: *Cerezo Osaka, Kitchee, Port, Guangzhou * Teams qualifying for the Round of 16 Round of 16 match-ups (13-15 September) East Zone: Ulsan Hyundai-Kawasaki Frontale Nagoya Grampus-Daegu FC Jeonbuk Motors-BG Pathum United Cerezo Osaka-Pohang Steelers West Zone: Istiklol-Persepolis Sharjah-Al-Wahda Esteghlal-Al Hilal Al-Nassr-Tractor

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR) vs Gamba Osaka (JPN) during their AFC Champions League 2021 Group H match at Bunyodkor Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Photo by Victor Fraile / Power Sport Images for The AFC

Memorable moments

Perfect run for holders Ulsan Hyundai got their title-defence off to a good start, winning six matches out of six to progress as group winners, to set up a mouth-watering Round of 16 showdown against Kawasaki Frontale. Under the legendary Hong Myungbo, the K League giants appear a team on the rise, notably conceding just a single goal thus far. Kawasaki run riot Kawasaki Frontale underlined their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites by winning their group in overwhelming fashion. Indeed, the Japanese champions are top scorers of the campaign so far, managing 27 goals and averaging 4.6 goals per game. Runaway leaders in the J.League, a domestic and continental double is not out of the question. Giants out There were mixed results for traditional powerhouses with former winners Gamba Osaka and Guangzhou crashing out. In the process, Gamba missed out on progression with a 2-1 defeat against Jeonbuk Motors in the group concluder. Two-time winners Guangzhou, who sent their second team in this campaign, paid the price earning zero points. Maiden progression Playing in only their second Asian appearance, both Daegu FC and BG Pathum United achieved breakthoughs by progressing beyond the group phase for the first time. The former sealed their maiden progression after defeating United City 4-0 in the closing game, a result which saw them advance as one of the three best runners-up while the latter advanced with four victories despite losing 2-0 to Ulsan in the last group game. Narrow escape Ukrainian striker Borys Tashchy scored a late equaliser as Pohang Steelers drew 1-1 against Nagoya Grampus in the group closing game for a precious point. And the 2009 winners only saw their progression confirmed two days later by Kitchee's goalless draw against Cerezo Osaka, a result which saw Pohang advance at the Hong Kong giants' expense. New goal-king Kitchee's Montenegrin forward Dejan Damjanovic set a new goal-scoring record with 40 goals from 71 AFC Champions League matches despite his side's near-miss. The 39-year-old opened his scoring account in this campaign in their 2-0 win against Port, levelling Lee Donggook's 37 goals as the tournament's highest goal-scorer. He went on to break the record on 27 June scoring against Cerezo Osaka to become the all-time top-scorer, before twice setting a new record with goals against Guangzhou. What they said "We always aim to win - in the team we are very competitive among each other, getting results is paramount and we will start preparing for the next round now." Kawasaki Frontale head coach Toru Oniki "The match in the Round of 16 against Nagoya is in September, so it’s very soon and I think if we focus on coming together as a team and recovering, we have hope. It's a tournament situation and we will approach it with a level of urgency." Daegu FC head coach Lee Byunggeun