I have always supported the Netherlands or the Oranje in every World Cup tournament since 1994. This World Cup however, I decided to support Japan or the Blue Samurai.
I wanted the Asian champions to show the world that a team from this region could make it big.
How wrong I was.
Asia’s best team finished bottom of their group, with only a single point to show for their efforts. Disappointing is an understatement.
Like Keisuke Honda, I really believed that Japan could even win the World Cup. Or even if they didn’t lift the trophy, they could have at least reached the quarterfinals. Or at the very least, the second round.
Japan were not in an easy group, but they were not in the toughest group either.
They had Colombia, Ivory Coast and Greece for company. Realistically, I thought Japan would have been able to finish second in that group.
They did not play very badly in their first two matches against Ivory Coast and Greece but were unlucky not to have drawn and won those respective games.
In the game against Colombia, they were just found lacking and did not have any cutting edge. They deserved to be thrashed by the flamboyant South Americans.
Japan’s performance was echoed by South Korea, Iran and Australia. (Australia might not be Asian geographically but they used the Asian route to the World Cup.)
All the Asian representatives finished winless at the bottom of their groups marking the worst performance by a continent. All the other continents have some sort of representation in the second round.
South America has five teams, Central America has three teams, Africa has two while Europe has six teams. Asia, on the other hand, have zero! That statistic annoys me, especially since we know that any of the four Asian teams could easily stuff Malaysia on the pitch.
Even the teams that lose to the likes of Japan, can beat Malaysia easily. We can’t even qualify for the Asian Cup for heavens sake. What more the World Cup?
Altogether, Asia’s representatives scored three paltry points from a possible 36. Only Australia failed to gain a single point, although you have to consider the fact that they were drawn against defending champions Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.
South Korea had Russia, Belgium and Algeria in their group and I think they had a chance to qualify from the group stages.
Iran meanwhile, had Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia for company. I wouldn’t have given them a chance to qualify but after drawing against Nigeria in the first match and narrowly losing to a Lionel Messi strike in the match against Argentina, I expected them to have a chance against the Bosnians.
Sadly, the tactically astute Bosnians outwitted them.
Out of all the Asian teams, I was most impressed with Iran for their resolute defending and their organisation. They could have even defeated Argentina, but a wonderful strike from the world’s best player ensured that they went home empty handed.
Japan and South Korea came to the fore at the 2002 World Cup that they co-hosted when they reached the second round and semi-finals respectively.
The following World Cup in Germany, no Asian team made it past the group stages.
Then in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, both Japan and South Korea made it to the second round.
So maybe there is a trend here? Do reasonably well in one World Cup and bomb the next?
FIFA has the right to reduce the number of teams from any continent if that continent does badly. From four, we could see it reduced to three and a half. (The half being a playoff game against a country from another qualifying zone)
That would not be good for the Asians who will find it very hard to get their spots back in the future.
> Rashvinjeet is still waiting for Malaysia to qualify for the Asian Cup> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own