HK Team

A Guide to Hong Kong at the 2023 Asian Cup


Looking to learn more about the Hong Kong squad the Asian Cup? Whether you’re a casual fan in Hong Kong or an interested follower from abroad, we’ve got you covered with our guide to team!

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You may have heard that Hong Kong are back in the Asian Cup for the first time in 56 years. It is a tremendous, though unexpected, achievement for a team who have failed to play in a major tournament since their last appearance.

But despite their stature as minnows in world football, Hong Kong participated in three of the first four Asian Cups. After hosting the inaugural edition in 1956, they’ve also qualified in 1964 and 1968. In 12 matches all-time, Hong Kong have drawn three matches and lost the remaining nine.

Needless to say, expectations are low for Hong Kong though the excitement for the team is very real.

Qualifying in this day an age for the tournament is a much different proposition as Asian football has progressed leaps and bounds since 1968. In June 2022 – nearly 18 months ago – Hong Kong grabbed the last remaining spot in the tournament thanks to a runners-up finish in their qualification group.

The team are led by Norwegian-German manager Jörn Andersen, who took over in December 2021. The 60-year-old is a former Golden Boot winner in the Bundesliga, and has tried to install an attacking mindset to Hong Kong after having once described the team’s previous style of play as “two decades behind” the times.

Jörn Andersen (Credit: HKFA)

The evolution of the team’s tactics has been slow as most of the team’s players play in the domestic league where teams generally do not press high up the pitch nor do they counter-press when they lose the ball, as Andersen demands. The coach has used most of the month-long training camp in the lead up to the tournament to build up his squad’s fitness levels as they prepare for Asian football’s biggest stage.

With that as the backdrop, we present our guide to the Hong Kong team at Asian Cup.

The Lead-up

In the summer, Andersen asked the Hong Kong Football Association to give him an extended training camp with the players before Asian Cup. To accommodate this, Hong Kong Premier League matches have been paused until 27 January although Sapling Cup matches will continue to be played.

The first leg of the training camp began on 14 December with 29 players in camp. The squad was trimmed down to 25 players – one short of the squad maximum – before the team flew to Abu Dhabi for the second leg of their camp.

In the UAE capital, they were joined by their final member, Sean Tse, on New Year’s Day. The team then proceeded to beat China in a friendly match 2-1 before falling to Tajikistan by the same score on the 4th.

The team arrived in Doha the following day where they were given a warm welcome by the hotel staff.

In the final training match, Hong Kong lost 2-0 to Saudi Arabia.

The Squad

Each team in the Asian Cup is allowed to name a final squad of 26 players. The following are the 26 men whom Andersen has selected, along with a brief description.

#1 | GK | Yapp Hung-fai | 33 | Eastern

Yapp is one of the most recognizable names on the squad, who became a household name after his heroics during the 2009 East Asian Games when Hong Kong won gold. He is the all-time appearance leader for Hong Kong with 88 caps and is likely to be the captain of the squad.

But despite his international experience, Yapp has two main weaknesses. At 5’11’’, he is short by goalkeeping standards and his numerous appearances in spite of his height can partially be attributed to the lack of depth at the position within the Hong Kong pool. He also struggles with his distribution, often times screaming angrily at his defenders when he’s forced to play the ball with his feet.

At the beginning of his tenure, Andersen turned to Paulo César, who is 6’5” and excels at playing the ball. But César’s struggles as a shot stopper, which happens to be Yapp’s strength, meant that Andersen was forced to switch back to the latter.

#2 | CB | Sean Tse | 31 | Radcliffe

One of the more intriguing names on the squad is that of Tse. Born in Manchester to a Hong Kong father, he played for both Manchester United’s and City’s academies growing up before he came to Hong Kong in 2012. He received his Hong Kong passport nine years later in 2021, but soon after he retired from the limelight.

Tse had been a regular starter at local giants Kitchee, helping them reach the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League for the first time. But in the intervening offseason, he declined to re-sign with the club and returned to Manchester where he founded his own business. The 31-year-old finally returned to football in August 2023, signing with a seventh division side in England, but his reasons for leaving professional football are unknown as he has declined multiple interview requests since departing Kitchee.

Make no mistake – this a massive gamble by Andersen. He’s not only betting that Tse is still good enough to compete at a high level, he’s also betting that Hong Kong won’t face an injury crisis so severe that he’ll need to use Tse. There are reasons for doubt as he was deemed not fit enough to participate in any of the three friendlies leading up to Asian Cup.

#3 | CB | Oliver Gerbig | 25 | Kitchee

A fresh face in the team, Gerbig received his first call up the final squad in October, though he did not make his debut until a month later in November. He was born in Hong Kong, though he moved to Taiwan at age 5 where he lived until he attended university in the United States.

The centreback was a solid performer for Kitchee’s treble winning side last season, but due to relative depth at his position, he was not called up. This led to consternation amongst some Hong Kong supporters that he would switch his allegiance to Taiwan, though those fears were eased when he was eventually called.

In truth, both Gerbig’s and Tse’s inclusions in the squad were due to a mix of injuries and retirements at the centreback position.

#4 | CB | Vas Nuñez | 28 | Guangxi Pingguo Haliao

Though he did not make his debut until July 2022, Nuñez is expected to be a starter for Hong Kong, having established himself in the national team setup in the past year.

The 28-year-old is the fifth oldest of six children and was raised in a small house in the rural village of Lamma Island by his mum, who was a single mother. He’s been very candid in past interviews about his upbringing, including the fact that his family were nearly homeless on several occasions and how he dropped out of school in Form 3 due to finances.

Growing up in poverty prepared him for life as a footballer where, twice, the club that he had been on folded. The second of those times turned out to be a blessing for Nuñez as he received a contract offer from then-China League One side Meizhou Hakka. He made 33 appearances that season for Meizhou after nearly deciding to hang up his boots.

Nuñez’s contract with his former club, Dalian, expired at the end of the 2023 season but he’s recently signed with Guangxi Pingguo Haliao, putting questions about his club future to bed as he prepares for the Asian Cup.

#5 | CB | Hélio | 37 | Kitchee

One of the elder statesmen of the squad, Hélio will be relied upon to marshall the backline. The Brazilian naturalized player first arrived in Hong Kong in 2008 and quickly established himself as one of the top centrebacks in the Hong Kong league.

Admittedly, he has lost a step in the past year, leading to questions about his suitability. But he remains one of the most respected voices inside the dressing room and his absence is felt every time he is not with the team.

The Asian Cup may prove to be a swan song for Hélio there are rumours that he and his family are preparing to emigrate at the end of the season.

#6 | CM/DM | Wu Chun-ming | 26 | Lee Man

Having been brought up as a holding midfielder, Wu showed in the 2022-23 season that he could play in a box-to-box role at Eastern. That earned him a move to league leaders Lee Man, who have mainly used him as a number six in a double pivot, in front of the defence. As Andersen prefers to play with only one holding midfielder, Wu often plays as a number eight at the international level.

He will also as a third-choice right back for Andersen.

#7 | RB/RW/LB | Law Tsz-chun | 26 | Kitchee

A year ago, Law Tsz was an automatic starter at right wing for Andersen. Since then, Everton Camargo and Mahama Awal have become available for selection, while Poon Pui-hin has made strides in his development.

The result is that Law Tsz has been relegated to an option off the bench.

Though may have lost his starting spot, his importance to the team hasn’t diminished. His positional versatility is his greatest asset as it allows Andersen to use his roster spots efficiently.

#8 | CM/DM | Tan Chun-lok | 27 | Kitchee

After spending 3.5 seasons playing in the Chinese Super League, Tan made the shock move to return to the Hong Kong Premier League this season after his club, Guangzhou City, decided to fold. While the move may have benefited him financially, it has not improved him as a player.

Tan’s best position is that of a carrilero – or a defensive minded number eight. That means that in the half-spaces or the wider areas of the pitch, while having a proper holding midfielder – or number six – behind him. However, at Kitchee, which play the same 4-3-3 formation that Andersen prefers, Tan has been made to play as a number six where he has struggled. He remains a consistent starter for Andersen despite his club performance but, arguably, his anticipatory skills have regressed in the past year.

It should be noted that at this time last year, he was recovering from a meniscus surgery the effects of which he may not have fully recovered from.

#9 | CF/LW | Matt Orr | 27 | Sichuan Jiuniu

Every national team has a player who can never, no matter how hard they try, replicate their club form for his national side. For Hong Kong, that player is Orr.

Orr had a brilliant season in 2023 for China League One side Guangxi Pingguo Haliao. He scored 15 goals in 26 league appearances, won the league’s Player of the Year award, and earned a contract with Chinese Super League side Sichuan Jiuniu. But for Hong Kong, his performances have left a lot to be desired as he has failed the find the back of the net in his last 14 matches.

There is also a question of where he best fits in. With the additions of strikers Stefan Pereira, Michael Udebuluzor and Juninho in the squad, Andersen may shift Orr back to left wing – a position he last played before leaving for China.

#10 | CM/AM | Wong Wai | 31 | Lee Man

Wong is an important member of Andersen’s squad as he is responsible for driving the team forward when they have the ball. Though he plays as a midfielder, he thinks like a second striker at times, arriving late into the box to try to head home crosses.

He was arguably at the height of his game in 2019 when Tai Po won the title, playing as a box-to-box midfielder. Following the end of his contract, he tried to find a club abroad but nothing materialized for him. Wong signed with Eastern and lost his form for a few years, before rebounding after he left the club in 2022 for Lee Man.

#11 | RW | Everton Camargo | 32 | Lee Man

Without question the best player on the squad. If you’ve never seen Everton play, imagine if Arjen Robben or Riyad Mahrez were to play for Hong Kong.

Of course, Everton is not close to as talented as the pair, but his game is very similar. Playing as an inverted winger, he prefers to receive the ball on the right flank where he can cut in on his left and shoot. He is also dead specialist as well, scoring a free kick goal on his debut for Hong Kong in September.

Hong Kong’s opponents will undoubtedly have done their homework on him so it will be fascinating to see if he can adapt his game. But, his addition to the squad has given Hong Kong a game changer it hasn’t had since Chan Siu-ki was in his prime more than a decade ago.

After scoring 24 goals last season for Lee Man, he’s got eight so far this season.

#12 | DM | Lam Hin-ting | 24 | Rangers

It feels as if Lam – or Fat Gor, as he is affectionately known – has been around Hong Kong football forever, and yet, he’s only 24. After turning professional in 2016 at the age of 16, he has been a part of three different clubs who’ve either folded or self-relegated.

Lam, too, has made life difficult for himself through ill-disciplined. After his last controversy in which he participated in a local futsal match without the consent of Rangers, and one in which he tossed his kit at the referee after he was sent off, he was banned by his club for several weeks and given an ultimatum: Either grow up or that would be the end of his career.

Needless to say, he has made the most of his final chance. His performances over the rest of the 2022-23 season led to his stock rising in Andersen’s books. But his lateral quickness had long been a concern for the coach and as such, he was ordered to lose weight in order to be considered for the national team.

Over the past summer, Lam lost 4 kilograms and was called up by Andersen for the Asian Games. He made his debut for the senior side in November.

#13 | CB | Li Ngai-hoi | 29 | Rangers

Another centreback who has moved up the pecking order due to retirement and injuries. Li moved to Rangers after being out of favour after his Chinese club, Nantong Zhiyun, were promoted to the Super League.

He has slowly regained his form after being a forgotten man at Nantong for six months and was an important part of Andersen’s Asian Games squad. Li lacks the athleticism and aerial ability of the other centrebacks but he anticipates well.

#14 | LW/CF/RW | Poon Pui-hin | 23 | Kitchee

Perhaps no other player on this squad has improved more in the past 18 months than Poon Pui. He played right back as a youngster but after joining Kitchee in 2021, the coaching staff have used him an attacking player off the bench. Since then, he’s only gone and scored 9 goals and 8 assists for the Bluewaves.

The 23-year-old, who also goes by ‘Max’, comes from a footballing family. His father is current Kitchee assistant coach, Poon Man-chun, while his uncle is former South China and Sun Hei legend, Poon Man-tik.

Poon’s style of play has drawn comparisons to former Hong Kong international Tommy Chuck. Both players like to use their pace to pressure on defenders without the ball and get in behind when in possession. Like Chuck, Poon has had disciplinary issues in the past, but fortunately, he has learned from his mistakes.

#15 | LW/CM | Marcus Chang Hei-yin | 23 | Lee Man

Chang is a bit of a controversial inclusion in the squad. His usual position at Lee Man is at left wing, a position where some observers feel that there are better options. But having seen Chang alongside some of those other options up close at the Asian Games, Andersen has given Marcus the nod.

Hong Kong is blessed with depth in attack with multiple players who could play at left wing, so it’s unlikely that Chang will play there. Instead, he will likely feature as a number 8 – a position where he made half of his Asian Games appearances.

#16 | CM | Philip Chan Siu-kwan | 31 | Tai Po

As a player, Chan is similar to Wong Wai. Both players are the same age, can play as attacking midfielders or box-to-box midfielders, and grew up together at the Sham Shui Po academy.

But personality wise, the two players are quite people, which makes their partnership on the pitch quite intriguing. Wong is a more straightforward, direct type of player, where as Chan is more adventurous and tries to play with more flair to his game. This has made him one of the more polarizing players amongst Hong Kong fandom – some see value in this type of player whilst others see a turnover machine.

Chan was named the Player’s Player of the Year last season, and he’s gotten off to a good start this season. He’s scored five goals and two assists for Tai Po and like Sean Tse, he’s a player that Andersen has selected in the past even when he’s unattached.

#17 | LB/LW | Shinichi Chan | 21 | Kitchee

Chan was the brightest of young talents in Hong Kong football when he made his international debut in 2019, coming off the bench against Taiwan as a 16-year-old. The progression of his career in the four years since provides a cautionary tale that young players don’t develop in a linear fashion.

Disruptions to professional football in Hong Kong mean that three separate league seasons were either shortened or cancelled. After winning the starting left back job at Kitchee for a year, Chan spent most of the 2021-22 season without football after the season was cancelled halfway through. He played a role in Kitchee’s Champions League advancement in the spring of 2022, earning a loan move to Spanish third division side Réal Union.

Work permit issues delayed the starlet’s registration until January 2023, where he played only five matches for the club before a metatarsal fracture ended his season. He returned to Kitchee where he again is their starting left back, though his performances have not been as strong as before.

At the international level, Andersen has used Chan as a left winger instead of a left back, and there are lingering doubts whether his defensive ability is up to international standards.

#18 | GK | Ivan Ng Wai-him | 21 | Southern

Two and a half years ago, Ng was a relative unknown. He had spent the past two seasons on Happy Valley’s books where he made only one appearance – a token nine-minute cameo off the bench. Ng was the club’s fourth keeper, behind Tse Ka-wing who was the third keeper.

After Happy Valley self-relegated, he went to Southern and never looked back. As a 19-year-old, Ng wrestled the starting keeper’s job away from former Hong Kong international, Tse Tak-him, and two years later, he was named in Andersen’s Asian Games squad where he was Ka-wing’s backup.

Ng is best known for his prowess as a penalty stopper, having stopped five of the seven penalties he’s faced in his career. His command of the box and his decision making – whether to punch or catch corners – requires work, but his overall body of work deserves praise. It should be noted that if Kitchee keeper, Paulo César, were healthy, Ng likely wouldn’t be here.

#19 | GK | Tse Ka-wing | 24 | Tai Po

Will Andersen go with Yapp or Tse as his number one keeper? That will be one of the biggest questions going into Asian Cup for Hong Kong.

Tse has made the most of his new lease on life after being one of several players who were banned from international play for a year after the Hong Kong U23 team’s infamous drinking binge. Since being named the starting keeper at Tai Po midway through the 2022-23 season, Tse has won plaudits as an extraordinary shot stopper and there have been calls to make him Hong Kong’s number one.

His heroics at the Asian Games helped Hong Kong to achieve a historic fourth place finish and has given Andersen a fantastic dilemma to have about his goalkeeping situation.

#20 | CF | Michael Udebuluzor | 19 | FC Ingolstadt II

One of the youngsters looking to make a name for themselves at this year’s Asian Cup is the 19-year-old Udebuluzor. The son of former Rangers and Sun Hei striker, Cornelius, he only received his Hong Kong passport in September but has made five appearances since.

Udebuluzor is far from the finished product. His off-the-ball movement needs to be quicker and more incisive in order to pose a problem for opposing defences. But his inclusion in the squad shows that Andersen sees potential in the Ingolstadt academy product, and who better to judge strikers than a former Bundesliga Golden Boot winner?

#21 | RB | Yue Tze-nam | 25 | Meizhou Hakka

At no position does Hong Kong have more depth than at right back and it’s here we find one of the finest players on the squad.

There was a time when Yue Tze was thought of as one of the best up and coming attacking midfielders in the Hong Kong Premier League until he was converted to right back in 2021. He has taken to the position brilliantly and earned himself a move to the Chinese Super League a year later.

Yue Tze’s pace and tireless work rate give Hong Kong a shut down fullback on defence and width in attack. Hong Kong needs players who won’t be awed by the big occasion, who are fearless, and can match up against the best – that’s Yue Tsz in a nutshell.

#22 | AM/CM | Jesse Yu Joy-in | 22 | Eastern

Like Ivan Ng, Yu was a member Happy Valley’s squad from 2019-21. Like Ng, Yu barely played at Valley. And like Yu, he has seen his playing time and his fortunes grow since leaving the club.

Yu became a regular substitute off the bench for Rangers last season but his appearances were enough to earn him a move to Eastern, where he developed a bit more sharpness to his game. He is one of the least experienced players on the squad, and his slender frame leaves a lot to be desired, so it is unlikely that he will feature much during the tournament.

#23 | LW/LB | Sun Ming-him | 23 | Eastern

With his infectious smile and positive attitude, Sun Ming has become a household name in Hong Kong football since making his professional debut in 2018. While there’s no question about his talent, there are questions about how Andersen will use him.

At Eastern, Sun tends to play up front, either as a left winger or a central striker. Andersen has tended to use him at left wing but he’s struggled to carry over his club success over to the international game. At the Asian Games, Sun played left back for Hong Kong and did an adequate job.

The question, however, is how he compares to Shinichi Chan at that position. Both players are more comfortable in attack than in defence, which makes for an interesting dilemma as Hong Kong are not expected to dominate possession in any of their games. Much like the goalkeeping position, Andersen may elect to rotate players between the first and second match, and go with whoever performed better in the third match.

#24 | AM/CM | Ju Yingzhi | 36 | Southern

A creative player who likes to play one-two’s near the box, Ju has truthfully seen better days. He is unlikely to be more than an option off the bench late in a match when Hong Kong needs a set piece taker or some veteran leadership.

The latter of those two is the main reason why Ju was selected without controversy. As it became clear by November that Hong Kong captain, Huang Yang, would not be part of the Asian Games squad due to lack of regular minutes this season, there was a leadership void in midfield that would need to be filled.

Ju has been a part of the national team setup since 2010 and has 44 caps.

#25 | CF | Stefan Pereira | 35 | Southern

One of the newest members of the squad at 35, Pereira recently received his Hong Kong passport on 14 December after having first arrived in the city in 2013. After one season with Citizen, he returned to Brazil but came back in January 2016, and has remained in Hong Kong since.

Pereira is a prolific goal scorer in the local league, having scored over 100 times for four different clubs. He is also Southern’s all time record goal scorer, scoring 54 goals for the club despite joining only three-and-a-half years ago.

Whether he can convert even a tenth of his club form to the international level is one of the biggest questions for Hong Kong. Andersen has spoken before of how he prefers his strikers to play on the back shoulder of the defence, as opposed to playing with their back to goal, and he has named Pereira as one of those who can play his style. The good thing for the 35-year-old is that he relies less on pace and more on his anticipation to create goals.

#26 | LW/CF | Juninho | 33 | Kitchee

Another player who has received his passport in the previous month is Juninho, who has worked his way up the Hong Kong pyramid to where he is today – a starting striker for Kitchee.

As with Pereira, he has been a clinical scorer in the Hong Kong Premier League, but this season, he’s struggled with a thigh injury which has kept him out for most of the season. When he has played, he’s scored six goals and three assists this season.

He can play both left wing and centre forward, but the degree to which he can press, given his injuries, is another matter for Andersen to ponder.

The Opponents

14 January | United Arab Emirates | 22:30 (Hong Kong Time)

A stern first test for Hong Kong as they face the Paulo Bento-led UAE. It’s been over 20 years since Hong Kong have gotten a result in the Middle East, much less a Middle Eastern country.

In the squad is the country’s record goal scorer, Ali Mabkhout, who is in fine form this season, scoring nine goals and five assists. In fact, Mabkhout and all of his teammates play in the domestic UAE Pro League.

20 January | Iran | 1:30

Things don’t get any easier for Hong Kong in their second match as they’ll face the third ranked team in Asian in Iran. The squad is who’s-who of stars from Sardar Azmoun, to Mehdi Taremi, to Alireza Beiranvand.

Hong Kong lost 4-0 to Team Melli less than two months ago in Tehran, but they were without Hélio, Everton, Pereira and Juninho at the time.

23 January | Palestine | 23:00

With due respect to Iran and the UAE, this is likely the game that Hong Kong have circled on their calendar. Palestine are Hong Kong’s lowest ranked opponent in their group, but they are still favoured to finish third. Should Hong Kong pull off an upset against Palestine, the result may be enough to send Hong Kong to the knockout phase.

The team are captained by Mus’ab Al-Batat, a right back with provides service into the box with pinpoint accurate crosses.

Will conflict with Israel inspire the Palestinians at the tournament? Or will it prove to be a distraction for the side?

That, instead of the players on the pitch, may turn out to be the determining factor.

The Stadiums

Hong Kong will play their first two matches at the Khalifa International Stadium. Originally built in 1975, the 46,000-seat stadium has been renovated twice, with the most recent renovation occurring in 2017. Fans may recall that the stadium hosted the Asian Cup Final in 2011.  

Khalifa International Stadium (Credit: Aspetar)

The last match of the group stage for Hong Kong will be held at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium. The 10,000-seater venue is more intimate ground than the Khalifa International Stadium, and is located within the city limits of Doha.

Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium (Credit: Qatar Stars League)

Broadcast info

All matches are available free on HOY TV Channel 77 and can be streamed through their website.

A Guide to Hong Kong at the 2023 Asian Cup
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