OKBET AFC Football -AFC CupTM Final Malaysia Numbers don’t lie
After the 2022 final, a new name will be added to the AFC CupTM roll of honour, as Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur City FC and Oman’s Al Seeb Club compete for the chance to be proclaimed kings of Asia.
In the competition’s 18th final, Al Seeb will try to become Oman’s first-ever winners, while KL City will try to emulate domestic rivals Johor Darul Ta’zim, who won the championship in 2015.
The West is the greatest
The numbers don’t lie, and the AFC Cup has been dominated by teams from West Asia, with the area winning 15 of the 17 finals to date.
The first edition was won by Syria’s Al Jaish in 2004, while the most recent champions were Bahrain’s Muharraq Club. Other Western winners have come from Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Getting out of the box
The winners of the continental tournament have, however, come from other parts of Asia twice. The Central and ASEAN regions are now on the list of winners.
In 2011, Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf defeated Kuwait SC to end the West’s seven-year reign on the title, before JDT defeated Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol in the 2015 final, the first and only decider not to include a side from West Asia.
Kuwait SC were the most successful team in the first decade, winning their first title in 2009 against Syria’s Al Karamah before going on to win three more times against Iraq’s Erbil SC (2012) and domestic rivals Qadsia SC (2013). They are still the only team to have been in four finals.
But the Iraqi Air Force Club went one better, winning three straight. They defeated Bengaluru FC of India in their first season in 2016, Istiklol the next year, and Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan the following year to win their maiden championship. They have won the competition each time they have entered it, making their record even more outstanding.
First to score wins
The side that scores first in the AFC Cup final often wins the match and the trophy. The last team to score first and not win the championship was Qadsia, who lost the 2010 championship game to Syria’s Al Ittihad on penalties.
Nine teams have since won the championship by scoring first (10 if you include Qadsia scoring the opening penalty in the shootout against Erbil in 2014 after a goalless draw). Furthermore, Nasaf defeated Kuwait SC 2-1 in the final in 2011, the last time both teams scored.
The 2010 AFC Cup final between Qadsia and Al Ittihad drew the largest crowd ever for an AFC Cup final with 58,604 spectators filling Kuwait City’s Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium.
Even though Qadsia was the home team, there were a ton of Al Ittihad supporters there, creating a festive scene. And it was the Syrians who triumphed on penalties after a 1-1 draw to take home the victory.
With a whopping seven goals in the AFC Cup final, former Muharraq striker Rico is by far the most prolific scorer in the main event.
After scoring when his team fell to Jordan’s Al Faisaly in 2006, Rico made a powerful comeback two years later, scoring hat-tricks both at home and away as Muharraq defeated Safa SC to win the championship. He now has a career-high 19 goals, which is the most in a single season.
The 2008 final set a new record for most goals scored, with 15 being scored when Muharraq defeated Safa 5-1 and 5-4 in the last two-leg championship game.
The second leg’s nine goals were easily the most ever scored in a single championship game. Seven championship games were played between 2014 and 2021, however just nine goals were scored in the whole tournament.
Success for Kuwait
Two Kuwaiti clubs (Kuwait SC and Qadsia) have finished as runners-up in the AFC Cup a total of three times, making Kuwait the most successful country in the tournament’s history.
After Kuwait, the next countries with multiple championships are Iraq (Air Force Club) and Jordan (Al Faisaly, Shabab Al Ordon), followed by Syria (Al Jaish, Al Ittihad) and Bahrain (Muharraq Club).
A Day at the Races
For the first few years of the tournament, it was not unusual for two teams from the same country to face off in the championship game. In the three years before to 2016, it was conceivable for domestic rivals to face off in the championship game.
In the first ever tournament, Al Jaish defeated Al Wahda in a Damascus derby on away goals. In 2007, Shabab Al Ordon defeated Al Faisaly to claim victory in the battle of the Amman teams. The last time two teams from the same nation met in the final was in 2013, when Kuwait SC defeated Qadsia 2-0.
Now, turning our attention back to the forthcoming final, both KL City and Al Seeb are making their championship debuts and want to become the first newcomers to win the title since Air Force Club in 2016.
In 2009, Kuwait SC were first-timers, and in 2007 and 2005, both Shabab Al Ordon and Al Faisaly were AFC Cup rookies when they won the title.
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