While the World Cup rolls after some enthralling round of 16 ties and some intriguing quarter final match ups, for Asia it has been a World Cup of what might-have-been - and that's putting a positive spin on results in Brazil.
No team in the last 16 is disappointing enough but coming away with no wins in 12 attempts makes it the worst performance since 1990.
It is worse than Italy 24 years ago because this time there were four representatives instead of two. This time there were genuine expectations as Asia has come a long way in the past almost-quarter-of-a-century. It just didn’t show it over the past two weeks or so.
The biggest disappointment was Japan simply because there surrounding the Samurai Blue were the biggest hopes. A fifth appearance was supposed to be the best ever as a talented and confident team progressed through a challenging but far from impossible group.
The opening game loss against Ivory Coast was a body blow though it didn’t need to be fatal yet the goalless draw with 10-man Greece was equally painful. The final showdown against the talented Colombians was a demonstration that ruthlessness in front of goal outweighs possession in midfield.
Japan did show flashes of what it is capable of but not often enough and not when it really mattered. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni resigned after almost four years in the job. The Italian seemed genuinely bewildered as to what went wrong and the debate will rage on in Tokyo for some time to come.
Ditto Seoul. Korean World Cups tend to end with controversy, drama and/or excitement but there was little of that in Group H. It seemed that long before full-time against Belgium in Sao Paulo that the Taeguk Warriors were resigned to an early exit. Korea exited Brazil in the meekest of fashions.
Again, there were high points, especially in the form of young star Son Heung-min but Korea did not show enough creativity and its usual pace when attacking. Add in a defence that has serious issues and it all meant that getting to the last 16 is a big ask. Against Belgium, even a team resting many stars and a man down for much of the match, Korea never really looked as if it was going to get the minimum of two goals necessary.
Iran will be happier. The team competed in Group F until the very end and with a little luck could have gone into the final game with Bosnia needing just a point to progress. As it was, defeating the talented World Cup debutants was a step too far. At least Reza Ghoochannejhad got the goal that his efforts in the tournament deserved.
Carlos Queiroz had already announced his plans to depart Tehran after the tournament, though this was not a surprise. The challenge for Iran is to build on the foundation and use the experience for the Asian Cup and beyond.
Australia’s tournament ended with defeat at the hands of world champion Spain, as many expected it would. A third thrilling match against a world-class team, especially one with a point to prove, was just a little too much.
Despite the three defeats, there are a number of positives to come out of the tournament for the Socceroos as a young team won admirers around the world for its spirit and no little skill. Mathew Leckie was especially impressive and he will get another chance.
So will Asia, though there may be some different teams representing the giant continent. Whoever goes to Russia, it is to be hoped that not all fall at the first hurdle.
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