Asian football has been making huge strides over the last decade and a half, but on the world stage our football still isn't taken seriously. Actually often we within Asia do not see our football on par with the game in the rest of the world with many Asians rather fans of European and especially South American football. But this could change after the good account that Asian teams gave of themselves at the ongoing 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The pick of the four Asian participants have to be Japan and South Korea, who impressed on their way into the pre-quarterfinals. And both sides had chances to make it into the last eight, but the lack of experience at this level plus some luck denied both East Asian sides a place in the quarterfinals. And for Asian football one quarterfinalist would have been good news. But the question remains, has Asia arrived on the world stage?
As a pleasant surprise came the performances of the Asian referee's. Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov and Yuichi Nishimura from Japan were consistent performers amongst match officials from around the world who had numerous blunders to account for over the duration of the World Cup. But we will forget the name of the Saudi referee, who was heavily criticised for his performances.
Here an overview of the four teams performances.
The best of the Asian sides on display. The Koreans were known to be physically fit, able to run for 90 minutes and more, but now with more and more South Koreans playing in Europe they have gained in international experience which is helping them as a team. Also the side was ably led by their captain and superstar Ji-Sung Park, but when it mattered against Argentina and Uruguay they couldn't get past the South American opposition. Still South Korea showed promise and hopefully will return stronger in 2014.
Coach Okada had said before the World Cup that his sides aim would be the semifinals. Many laughed about it, but after their pre-quarterfinal penalty shootout loss against Paraguay many said the Sons from the Land of the Rising Sun could have achieved more. Also Japan have a new star in Keisuke Honda and the CKSA Moscow player was a treat to watch. Normally an attacking midfielder for the national team he played as a striker and scored some crucial goals like the 1-0s against Cameroon and Denmark. As always Japan was well organised, but if they had someone more creative in midfield or a top striker, then they could have worried bigger opponents.
Their tournament was over before it had even started. Australia were the first victims of the young, talented Germans in a 4-0 defeat. An unlucky draw against Ghana followed where the Aussies played a long time with 10 men and they were the better side after the break, and in the end a 2-1 win against Serbia which wasn't enough to progress from the group. Some stars might retire now and the Socceroos will have to replace them with younger blood, but if the younger generation is ready will have to be seen.
They were the surprise qualifiers from Asia and the lowest ranked nation in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And the players from the communist state where the unknown quantity in the tournament. They held Brazil in their opening game goalless for 55 minutes and then only lost 2-1, which raised many eyebrows. Many hoped for further surprises but the North Koreans would be trashed 7-0 by Portugal and would then lose 0-3 against Ivory Coast. The World Cup was a great experience for the North Koreans, but it was a tournament too big for them.