Mariners ready for Tianjin test


Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold says his team is ‘buzzing’ heading into their first AFC Champions League Group G clash with Tianjin Teda FC on Wednesday evening.

Central Coast Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold says his team is ‘buzzing- heading into their first AFC Champions League Group G clash with Tianjin Teda FC on Wednesday evening.

The Mariners- mentor has only had two short sessions with his players since the team arrived in Tianjin from Sydney via Hong Kong and Beijing, but believes they-re ready to make the most of their opportunity to shine in Asia-s premier club competition.

“The boys are buzzing,” he said. “They can-t wait for the game.”

“This is what we worked hard for last year … the players have been looking forward to this night for a long long time.”

Arnold insists the limited on ground preparation will not negatively affect his players when they take to the 37,000 capacity Tianjin Teda Football Stadium on Wednesday.

Indeed, the wily tactician believes that it-s imperative his side focuses largely on their own performance, rather than delving too deeply into what the home side will bring to the match.

“Overall, athletically the Chinese are very good in transition,” he said. “They-re very quick on the break so we have to make sure that we keep numbers behind the ball and we play our structure.”

“(But) nothing changes for us, it-s about us and the way we play. We-ll play to our structure potentially with a change or two in the team.”

While each and every Mariners player will be eager to do well for himself and his team when kick-off at the Tianjin Teda Football Stadium arrives on Wednesday, Arnold added that he believes the enormity of the AFC Champions League means the Mariners are representing much more than themselves.

“For us it is a privilege to be in the AFC Champions League. It-s a wonderful experience for the Central Coast Mariners to participate in the competition.”

“We-ll try and do Australia and the A-League proud tomorrow night and I-m sure we will do that. Again the boys are extremely excited about it, it-s a great honour for the Mariners and the people of the Central Coast that we are here,” he said.

In an interesting subplot to the match, Arnold will attempt to outwit his former coach at Sydney Croatia, Josip Kuze. Kuze ventured to Australia from Croatia to take up his first managerial role in football and signed the former Qantas Socceroos striker to the club.

Tianjin Teda vs. Central Coast Mariners
Tianjin Teda Football Stadium – 8pm (local); 11pm (AEDT)
This is the third match between Tianjin Teda and Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Champions League. The two sides first met during the group stage in 2009 with Tianjin winning the match in Australia 1-0 after they had played out a 2-2 draw in China.

About Tianjin Teda FC
Tianjin Teda are making their third appearance in four seasons in the AFC Champions League. By reaching the round of 16 last year, they became only the second Chinese club to reach the knockout stage in the past five seasons.

Tianjin also met Australian opposition in the AFC Champions League last year when they faced Melbourne Victory during the group stage. They were held to a 1-1 draw in China and lost the return game in Australia 2-1.

Dutch coach Arie Haan left Tianjin in the off-season after two seasons in charge and was replaced by Croatian Josip Kuze.

Also leaving the club were young Chinese striker Yu Dabao, Argentinean striker Luciano Olguin and Serbian defender Marko Zoric.

Their replacements include Australian defender Milan Susak, Dutch striker Sjoerd Ars, Macedonian midfielder Velice Sumulikoski, and Romanian defender Lucian Goan.

Domestic form
Tianjin Teda kicked off their 2012 campaign with a 2-1 loss to Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the Super Cup on February 25. They will begin their league season with a home match against Dalian Aerbin this coming Saturday.

Josip Kuze
Born: 13 Nov, 1952 (59)
Nationality: Croatian
Tianjin Teda have appointed the highly-experienced Josip Kuze as the replacement for Arie Haan. The 59-year-old Croatian is widely travelled and has been in charge of the national teams of Rwanda and Albania as well as J.League sides Gamba Osaka and JEF United Chiba during his 30 years as a coach.