Atletico Madrid
Leg 1
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FC Salzburg
Leg 1
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St. Kitts and Nevis
12:00 AM UTC Apr 27, 2018
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Toronto FCToronto FC
(4) 1
(2) 2
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 3Guadalajara wins 4-2 on Penalty Kicks.
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Raising the sights of Asia's youth

In Japan, there was excitement for their man and respect for the Bhoys back in 2005 when Shunsuke Nakamura signed for Celtic. For his first game at one of homes of European football, around three dozen Japanese journalists were there, with four electing to live in Glasgow full-time. When Seol Ki-hyeon, a 2002 World Cup star, joined Wolverhampton Wanderers, then, as now, in the Championship in 2004, fans back in Seoul were also pleased to see one of their own in England and so close to the Premier League.

When Nakamura made his first appearance, Scotland had just missed out on one World Cup in the previous seven. Memories of the all-conquering Liverpool team of the '80s with a Scottish spine wrought of the highest quality were still fresh and few top English teams were tartan-free. Fresher still were thoughts of Rangers being Britain's big spenders and reaching the last four of the UEFA Champions League.

Times have changed and no longer does news of a transfer to Scotland's first or England's second tier get the pulse racing. Scotland is going through tough times. Few countries love football more, and there are few clubs bigger than Celtic around the world, but now there are a lot more options for the best players in Asia, and excitement at seeing their own play in Europe has been replaced, in many parts, by a more measured evaluation of the most desirable destinations. Countries like Japan have players in big clubs in top leagues and fans are no longer automatically excited about moves to Europe.

No longer is it all about a wonderful support or stadium or even the Champions League. Now journalists at home want to know about potential for development on a technical and tactical level. Celtic may have support to rival any, but is that part of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole going to help the advancement of young prospects from around the world?

It is a debate that is now taking place in Australia after Tom Rogic agreed to join Celtic, subject to a work permit. The 20-year-old has been described as one of the brightest prospects that the country has produced, at least since the A-League kicked off in 2005. He impressed upon breaking into the Central Coast Mariners starting eleven, impressed in the team's 2012 Asian Champions League campaign and has impressed since making his national team debut in November.

The A-League is losing one of its most creative talents to Scotland and that has provoked a mixed reaction. Plenty of Aussie fans are for the move and have fond memories of Mark Viduka's Glaswegian exploits. The name of Celtic is still a pull, as is the prospect of Champions League action, not least the second-round clash with Juventus that is just around the corner. And it is not like Scotland is disastrous for a player's career. Nakamura made the leap to Spain after his four years, though he struggled at Espanyol. Korea's Ki Sung-Yueng spent two-and-a half hooped seasons before heading to Swansea City - the midfielder had the chance to head straight to England but chose to go north of the border first.

Some would prefer the player to stay at home for a little while longer, while others think he should be aiming higher. It is no revelation to say that Scottish football has an increasingly negative reputation overseas (partly undeserved as it has become de rigueur not to watch any games but to look down on its quality, and to dismiss a league of 12 teams as, currently, one thoroughbred and 11 donkeys) but the feeling that Rogic could do better is accurate.

Rogic is not just a good prospect. He is the best Australian talent to emerge for years. The languid-looking creative force may not be the finished article but has the talent to play in Europe's top leagues. Australia is part of Asian football, which for most media and fans pretty much means Japan. This time they would be right to take a closer look at the Land of the Rising Sun. Shinji Kagawa left the country at a similar age to join Borussia Dortmund - just one of a number of talented youngsters to head to the Bundesliga.

Another lesson to be learned from Japan is the general devotion to technique. There is a growing desire in Aussie football to kick and rush away from its British football heritage and embrace a more technical game. In that respect, a Scottish league that is no longer close to being among the best in Europe - and is not that much stronger than the A-League - is not the most desirable destination.

A similar debate took place in Korea last summer. Kim Bo-Kyoung is not the biggest of stars in the country but one of a promising young generation. The winger starred in the J.League for Cerezo Osaka, Kagawa's former team, and helped the Taeguk Warriors to bronze at the 2012 Olympics.

By that time, he had already agreed to join Cardiff City. If South Korea, who made the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup and came close to a last-eight spot in 2010, want to become a permanent power outside Asia then many felt that the country should not be sending some of its brightest young players to the Championship, a league technically inferior to the one Kim was already at. There are rumours that Kim had little say in his destination. His agent has been criticised, though he will be feeling more vindicated the longer the red-clad Bluebirds stay at the top and start to look upwards to the Premier League with growing confidence.

That is what the best young prospects in Asia should do too. They should be setting their sights higher than Scotland or the Championship. Times have changed.


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