FIFA 2014

Asian teams sink to the bottom

World Cup history reveals that Asian teams have hardly made a mark at the mega event and the latest to exit the carnival is Iran. Photo: AFP   | Photo Credit: JAVIER SORIANO

Three of the four Asian Football Confederation (AFC)-member teams at the Brazil World Cup have already packed their luggage for their return home.

The latest setback for the Asian teams came on Wednesday when Iran surrendered 1-3 to Bosnia-Herzegovina in Salvador in the last group round, lying bottom of Group F.

Although Iran was eager to grab a victory and managed to score its first goal of the tournament, it was Bosnia that controlled the rhythm throughout the match.

Difference

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who has confirmed his resignation, admitted the difference between Asian soccer and European soccer: “We tried our best and went up to the limit of our mental capacity, but today the experience of the opponents and the ability to play in Europe made a difference.”

On Tuesday, Japan was humiliated by Colombia 1-4 in the final round of Group C — and thus leaves the World Cup with just one point. Australia fared no better, losing all its three matches in Group B.

So far in this World Cup, Asian teams are yet to score a win in 11 matches as the three draws and eight defeats are far below expectation.

Cold reality

Going over World Cup history reveals that the Asian sides have hardly shared the limelight at the centre stage of the football gala.

In Italy in 1990, neither the United Arab Emirates nor South Korea notched up a win. At the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Saudi Arabia reached the knockout phase and four years later Iran famously beat the United States in France in a group match.

The most successful World Cup for the Asians came in 2002 when it was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan when South Korea reached the semifinals on its home soil.

Four years later, Australia’s Socceroos reached the knockout phase in Germany.

Judging their performance here, some said there is still a long way for the Asian teams before they catch up with the American and European counterparts.

“Asian teams year after year keep making the same mistakes, so they’ll never be able to be on the same level as Europe or South America,” Queiroz said assigning the defeat to the competition system, the training and organisation.

“The officials persist in copying Europe and the gap is bigger and bigger,” he added.

Bora Milutinovic, who has coached five different teams, including China, at the World Cup, also believed that Asian teams were far behind in terms of tactics and creativity of players.

“Asian footballers seem to be produced by a machine, they play in the same way and lack of creativity. If Asians wouldn’t reflect and thus make changes, they surely will be left behind in the future too,” he said.

Making progress

However, some others hold that Asian teams are making progress and they have a chance to emerge as the strongest teams as long as they continue.

“If you look at South Korea, they’re a little bit like us in that they’re going through regeneration and looking to build.

“I think Japan are still a quality team... they just haven’t been rewarded at this stage for the quality they have,” said Ange Postecoglou, the coach of Australia.

He added that the Socceroos hoped to come back in four years and would try to be one of the feared teams.

“That goes for all the nations in our confederation, and that’s the challenge for us over the next four years.”

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