Reigning champions Leicester City will meet last year’s beaten finalists Aston Villa in the quarter-finals of the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens on Sunday after both sides advanced to the knockout phase of the 2018 edition.
Leicester City, who won the 2017 decider 3-0 to claim a second title in five years, finished in second place in Group D after a 2-0 defeat by tournament newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion in Saturday’s penultimate game set up a repeat of last year’s final.
Aston Villa had won Group B earlier in the day, finishing five points ahead of second-placed Cagliari Calcio, and captain Callum O’Hare is in confident mood after a series of impressive performances by his team.
“I feel like we’ve done well,” he said. “We’ve won every game quite comfortably I think. In our last game (against Cagliari Calcio) we didn’t get the first goal and we were still able to win and that was a big thing.
“We’re doing well but we just need to carry that into tomorrow’s games. We’re feeling confident, we’ve got a good bunch of players and we know how to play now, so we just have to take that confidence into the next games.
“We’re looking to win this year. We lost in the final last year, so we want to go one step further.”
Kashima Antlers will take on Newcastle United in the last eight after the Japanese side impressed to top Group A ahead of West Ham United, who will face Group C winners Glasgow Rangers.
And Cagliari Calcio will play newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion in the quarter-final after the tournament debutants topped Group D.
“We’re really chuffed with this,” said Brighton captain James Tilley. “We started the tournament a bit slowly, but we haven’t played here before so we were just getting used to the competition.
“In our last game we found our rhythm, started to flow and it showed with the result. We’re really happy with that.
“We’ve been watching other teams to see what they were doing and what they were doing well. We’ve changed it around a bit and found what works for us and we’re doing well and we’re happy.”
In the Masters event, defending champions Citi All Stars won Group B with a perfect record of four victories to set up a semi-final clash with Discovery Bay, who claimed second spot in Group A.
The Hong Kong-based side finished behind Wallsend Boys Club, who took pole position in the group and will play Nottingham Forest Mobsters in the last four on Sunday morning.
Wallsend Boys Club lost in the final of last year’s competition to Citi All Stars, who are looking to claim a third straight title after wins in 2016 and 2017.