Shanghai Shenhua face tough Asian Champions League

AFC National Team Competitions Director Shin Man Gil shows the draw for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC of South Korea during the 2018 AFC Champions League football tournament official draw for group stages at the Asian Football Confederation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR — Chinese FA Cup winners Shanghai Shenhua face a tough test in the 2018 Asian Champions League after being drawn Wednesday against top Japanese club Kashima Antlers and Australian A-League leaders Sydney FC.

The Chinese side unexpectedly beat expensively assembled rivals Shanghai SIPG in last month's FA Cup final, without Argentine forward Carlos Tevez whose future in China is in doubt after a poor run of form.

But they have a fight on their hands in the group stage of Asia's premier club competition against Antlers, finalists in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup and Sydney.

Two-time winners and Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande will face South Korea's Jeju United, Thailand's Buriram United and the winner of Japan's Emperor's Cup, following the draw in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The 2017 AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan are not competing after failing to qualify. Runners-up Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia face Iran's Esteghlal and Qatar's Al-Rayyan, as they make a fresh bid to end years of dominance by East Asian clubs.

Meanwhile 2016 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea are set to return to the tournament after being barred last year due to a bribery scandal. The group stage runs from February to April with the West and East Asian teams kept apart until the final in November.

Group A: Al Jazira (UAE), Al Ahli (KSA), Tractorsazi Tabriz (IRI), Winner of Playoff 3.

Group B: Al Duhail SC (QAT), Al Wahda (UAE), PFC Lokomotiv (UZB), Winner of Playoff 2.

Group C: Persepolis FC (IRI), Al Sadd SC (QAT), Al Wasl (UAE), Winner of Playoff 4.

Group D: Al Hilal SFC (KSA), Esteghlal FC (IRI), Al Rayyan SC (QAT), Winner of Playoff 1.

Group E: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC (KOR), Kitchee SC (HKG), Winner of Play-off 4, Winner of Playoff 2. Group F: Kawasaki Frontale (JPN), Ulsan Hyundai FC (KOR), Melbourne Victory (AUS), Winner of Playoff 3.

Group G: Guangzhou Evergrande FC (CHN), Japan 2nd Club, Jeju United FC (KOR), Buriram United (THA).

Group H: Sydney FC (AUS), Shanghai Shenhua FC (CHN), Kashima Antlers (JPN), Winner of Playoff 1.

FIFA ends Kuwait's suspension for meddling

World Football governing body FIFA announced on Wednesday it was lifting its suspension of Kuwait, after the Gulf state's parliament adopted a law meant to end government interference in the sport.

"The suspension of the Kuwait Football association is lifted," FIFA's president Gianni Infantino announced alongside a Kuwaiti official in a short video shared widely on Twitter. Infantino was visiting Kuwait to announce the eagerly anticipated decision.

World sports bodies led by FIFA and the International Olympic Committee suspended Kuwait in October 2015 for the second time since 2010 over alleged government meddling in sports.

The suspensions meant Kuwait missed out on the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup, and before that the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

On Sunday, the Kuwaiti parliament passed a new law in line with FIFA's requirements and on Tuesday, Kuwaiti clubs elected the head of a new Football federation. — AFP