Asian World Cup struggles showcase problems at home


Email Print

Iran's Amir-Hossein Sadeghi sits on the pitch after their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match against Argentina at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 21, 2014. Iran's Amir-Hossein Sadeghi sits on the pitch after their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match against Argentina at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 21, 2014.
Eight matches gone and still Asia waits for a first win at the World Cup, with the struggles of the continent's four teams in Brazil demonstrating the coaching and administrative failings going on throughout the region.
Australia predictably bowed out after two defeats against tough opposition, while Japan, Iran and South Korea look set to follow them after each have managed only one point so far.
If that plays out, then Asia are likely to be the only one of the five FIFA confederations competing in Brazil not to have a team in the knockout stages.
"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," Iran boss Carlos Queiroz told reporters.
"It's because of the competition system, the training and organization. You cannot copy Europe because the day you think you are close, they are one step ahead because they also progress.
"But the officials persist in copying Europe and year after year the gap is higher and higher. It is a pity because 60 percent of the money in football comes from Asia and they have the worst conditions."
Asian champions Japan have proved the most disappointing of the quartet in Brazil, despite the investment and burgeoning health of the domestic J-League.
"I would really like Japan to do well on the pitch as they tend to do everything right off the pitch. The Japanese model is the one to follow in AFC," Englishman Steve Darby, who has coached throughout Asia from Australia to Bahrain, told Reuters.
"Japan has long-term goals - unlike many countries who have such short term ones based purely on immediate results - a strong league, underpinned by an organized systematic youth development program.
"Far too often the coaching positions in youth development are "given" to people and it is such an important role."
Popular local
German Holger Osieck was guilty of having short-term goals and was axed as Australia coach in favor of popular local coach Ange Postecoglou before the World Cup.
The 3-1 and 3-2 defeats by Chile and the Netherlands suffered by his young side, though, were met with mild relief at home after 6-0 friendly hammerings by Brazil and France under Osieck had many Socceroos fans fearing embarrassment.
South Korea were disappointingly dumped 4-2 by Algeria after a promising, if dull, draw with Russia, while Queiroz had always warned Iran needed a miracle if they were to advance after long bemoaning the "amateur" set up at home.
"For us as a confederation, that's the next challenge, to try and not just come into these tournaments but really try to make an impact," Postecoglou said.
The onus is on the quartet to do so with the picture looking bleak behind them.
Jordan were humbled 5-0 at home by Uruguay in the first leg of the intercontinental playoff for the last spot in Brazil, with the AFC's Bahraini president Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa reacting by pushing to ensure future Asian playoff teams will face far easier Oceania Confederation opponents instead.
But while the prestige and prize money of reaching the World Cup would be welcomed, the grim reality of the gulf in class is only likely to harm and embarrass.
Biggest defeats
At the 2010 tournament in South Africa, North Korea were tanked 7-0 by Portugal with Saudi Arabia smashed 8-0 by Germany in the group stages in 2002 - two of the biggest defeats since El Salvador's record 10-1 loss to Hungary in 1982.
Qatar, who will make their World Cup debut in 2022 as hosts, were beaten 5-1 by Uzbekistan last year in a qualifier.
Darby said the Qataris, though, were setting the example in terms of state-of-the-art training facilities which was an obvious area smaller member associations needed to address.
"At the moment there are about four nations in Asia that are competitive, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Iran, but there is a second layer that should be competitive Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi and of course China should be there all the time," he said.
"A bit like society in general in Asia there are super rich footballing nations and some terribly poor, perhaps it needs more middle class football nations to make that elite group stronger."
Despite Asian sides winning only 14 matches at the 20 World Cups and only six teams ever making it through the first stage they have a powerful supporter.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter told the members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) last year "you are a powerhouse," as he encouraged them to bid to have their four-and-a-half World Cup slots increased by the world governing body.
Skeptics suggested it was an election ploy by the Swiss to win favor with the 46 member confederation, infamous for global match-fixing and corruption than World Cup glory, ahead of a likely bid for a fifth term at the top in 2015.
"I think Sepp Blatter says what is the most politically expedient at the time to suit the situation," Darby added.
"I do not believe that the performance of the teams is a major factor. The key is the political power of the Confederation and AFC has a great many votes. The reality is that Bhutan's vote is equal to Germany or England's."
That might be the case, but the 78-year-old Blatter will not be around forever and a new president might have a different philosophy.

More Sports News