Japan’s Kashima Antlers are becoming a regular fixture at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens, with 2019 making it four years in a row and fifth time overall for the J.League side.
Kashima returned to Hong Kong Football Club for the first time since their debut appearance in 2004 in 2016, when they became Japan’s first representatives at the annual event since 2008.
They impressed on their return and reached the quarter-finals, only to lose to eventual champions Aston Villa.
Kashima struggled in 2017 and finished bottom of their group before losing 5-0 in the semi-finals of the Plate to Bayer Leverkusen.
But last year, the Japanese side found their groove in the group stage and topped the table with a 100% record after beating Wellington Phoenix, West Ham United and the Yau Yee League Select without conceding a goal, which included a 3-0 win over the English Premier League side.
But again, making it beyond the quarter-finals proved one step too far, and Kashima lost on penalties to eventual champions Newcastle United.
Kashima are Japan’s most successful club by a considerable distance, reaching the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup final against Real Madrid before becoming Asian champions last year by winning the AFC Champions League.