World cup 2014

Fifa World Cup 2014

AFC putting a brave face on Asian failure

Regional body still hoping for more places at future events, despite worst performace in 24 years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 1:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 2:42am

Asia is refusing to give up on World Cup success despite neither of its four teams winning a game in Brazil, the continent's worst performance in 24 years.

South Korea's 1-0 defeat by Belgium confirmed Asia's first winless showing since Italy 1990, when the Taeguk Warriors were the only Asian side.

After South Korea followed Japan, Australia and Iran out of the competition, an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) statement called it "an abrupt end".

At the last World Cup, in 2010, both Japan and South Korea reached the knockout stages.

And the underperformance came as Asia pushes for more places for its teams at the World Cup, a campaign supported by Sepp Blatter, head of global governing body Fifa.

But AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa said that despite the disappointment the tournament was a valuable learning experience for Asian teams.

"This World Cup serves as a lesson to all Asian nations," he said.

"The Asian teams are rather young on average, so they can only get better, but what is of particular importance now is that we stay united.

"Asia must acknowledge its shortcomings, but at the same time we must believe in our own ability. The AFC is determined to unlock the full potential of Asian football."

The four teams scored just nine goals in 12 games. They conceded 25.

Australia won the most credit for their defiant performances against Chile and the Netherlands, raising their hopes for the Asian Cup, which they will host early next year.

Iran were booed for their 0-0 draw with Nigeria before being applauded for nearly achieving the same result against Argentina before Lionel Messi's late winner.

Asian champions Japan were the biggest disappointment. They have players at top European clubs and were confident in their group against Colombia, Greece and Ivory Coast.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who quit after the Blue Samurai crashed out, said the age-old problem of physicality had been a factor.

"I think the culture of Japanese soccer and the special characteristics and technique of the players can cut it on the world stage, but physical strength is what is lacking," he said.

South Korean coach Hong Myung-bo also pointed to physical problems. When asked how an Asian team could win the World Cup, he was vague.

"Our players always have a dream, but in order to realise this dream we have to make a lot of efforts," he said. "In this World Cup, we didn't have good results. I think that each team played in a different style, but overall there were a lot of deficiencies in Asian teams."

South Korea's achievement in reaching the 2002 semi-finals appeared to announce Asia as a football force, but that performance remains a high point.