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Asian Flags Flying High In World Cup Brazil 2014

It is fast approaching that time of the year where practically the whole world will be switching their attention to one event that comes by once every four years.  Of course we are talking about

It is fast approaching that time of the year where practically the whole world will be switching their attention to one event that comes by once every four years.  Of course we are talking about the much awaited, much talked about FIFA World Cup in Brazil this June!  Brazil last hosted the World Cup in 1950 and more than half a century later, the excitement is just as great as we get to see an event which is set to mesmerize just about everyone and unite nations and the human race globally. One of the interesting facts is that no Asian team participated in the 1950 edition but come June, there will be four teams participating from the East! The Asian flags that will be flying in South America are Australia, Japan, Iran and South Korea.

Also popularly known as the Socceroos, AUSTRALIA became a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006. The path to the World Cup Final was probably much tougher than they have expected after moving over from Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) as they struggled against Jordan, Oman, Iraq and Japan in the final qualifying stage. Nevertheless, Australia finished as runners-up in their group and qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil last June.

Australia is drawn in Group B alongside defending champion Spain as well as 2010’s runners-up Netherlands and Chile. Former Australia International & current head coach, Ange Postecoglou would have known that nothing less than maximum effort is required from them to create an upset in this powerful and tough Group.

In the past 2 World Cup which Australia has participated, Australia had never been able to match the top seeded teams. In Germany 2006, Australia lost 2-0 to Brazil in the group game though they managed to crawl into the next stage with a minor win against Japan and a draw against Croatia. Eventually, they were eliminated from the World Cup after losing 1-0 to the eventual champion Italy in the Last 16. Similar outcome in South Africa 2010, Australia suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat to host nation Germany. Although they managed to grab another win and a draw against Serbia and Ghana respectively, that was not good enough for them to progress to the next round.

In Brazil 2014, top seeded teams like Spain, Netherlands and Chile shares the same group as Australia.  The crucial game which could determine the fate of Australia would have to be its first game against Chile on 13 June. Should Australia be able to steal full 3 points from South America’s La Roja whom they last met in the seventies, the second game against Netherlands 4 days later would give them an opportunity to repeat what they have done in 2006 Germany by progressing to the Last 16. And with an average age of 26 in the team, veteran player, 35yrs old Tim Cahill would be influential in Australia’s World Cup Campaign. The playmaker from New York Red Bulls also needs no reminder that this could be his last World Cup. 

Having participated in the last 4 editions of the World Cup, experienced JAPAN stormed through the Asian qualifying rounds registering only one loss each to Uzbekistan and Jordan. With their determined performance, Japan became the first country, apart from host nation Brazil, to qualify for 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

Although Japan has recorded a huge 12 games defeat in their 4 World Cup history, they have also recorded great victories against the likes of Russia, Tunisia, Cameroon and Denmark. Especially with the appointment of their new Italian coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan has impressed the world with results such as a 1-0 victory over Paraguay, France and Argentina during their FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 preparation! 

Compared to the other Asian teams, Japan stands an extremely probable chance of progressing to the Last 16.  Aligned together with Japan in Group C are Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia. Ivory Coast who has never progressed from the Group Stage in their World Cup history would kick off the first game against Japan on 14 June. Having went down 2-0 against Ivory Coast in their World Cup preparation in 2010, the Samurai Blue would expect no easy first game. After which, Japan would battle out with former Euro Cup winner, Greece on 19 June and then with Colombia on 24 June.

Colombia who last played in a World Cup tournament in France 1998 could be the dark horse in this Group. If Japan is unable to secure much needed points from the first two games, the final game against Colombia could prove to be the vital one to determine if they can accelerate from the Group Stage.

We could expect an easy task from Japan but ultimately it would be up to the Japanese during the match to see if they will be able to secure a place in the Last 16. Having said that, we see no major obstacle preventing Japan from progressing to the next round. AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Mainz 05’s and AFC Qualifying Top Scorer, Shinji Okazaki would be key to the team’s success.

IRAN will be embarking on their fourth World Cup journey in Brazil this June. Iran’s best finish in the World Cup Final has only retained at Group Stage but of course they would beg to differ as this time around, the Persian Stars will be led by their Portuguese Manager Carlos Queiroz. Since his appointment, the former Portugal National Team and Real Madrid’s manager has injected his team with European football flair as he called up all his players plying their trades in Europe. His effort paid off as Iran topped the AFC Qualifying Group and qualified for the Brazil 2014 games.

Iran has been grouped in a tough Group F alongside one of the World Cup favourites Argentina, Nigeria and World Cup debutant Bosnia-Herzegovina. They will play the African Cup of Nation’s Champion Nigeria in the first match on 16 June. Historically, both Iran and Nigeria have only met once in Carlsberg Cup in 1998 which saw the Super Eagles snatched a 1-0 victory in HongKong. History will speak nothing in a World Cup and both teams understand the importance of the first 3 points as both teams would want to build up confidence for their next daunting games against the mighty Argentina and Bosnia. If Iran wants to make a historic progress to the next round, they would have to capitalize on their chances against the big teams. If not, an early bath could be unavoidable for the Iranians.

Based on the AFC Qualifying statistics, Iran’s goals came from a combined teamwork rather than an individual effort. That could be good news as it showed the depth of the team. However, what separates a winner from a loser is the result; you need the players who can score goals constantly. The good news here in such an instance might turn out to be bad news. The Iranian team would be looking up to their country’s longest serving captain, Osasuna’s Javad Nekounam for motivation.

Among the Asian teams, SOUTH KOREA is regarded as the most experienced Asian team ever to participate in the World Cup Final. The Taegeuk Warriors have not missed a single World Cup Final since 1986 and they have also recorded their best finish in the World Cup Final as fourth placing in 2002!

This time, South Korea qualified for Brazil 2014 as both Watford’s Park Chu-Young and Sangju Sangmu’s Lee Keun-Ho scored an outstanding combined total of 11 goals in the AFC Qualifying. This impressive scoring record would be crucial for South Korea as they are grouped together with Belgium, Algeria and Russia in Group H, who also recorded a goal feast from their respective World Cup Qualifying. Undoubtedly, the team with the highest goal tally in this group would progress to the next round.

Similar to Australia, the result of South Korea’s first game against Russia on 17 June, could determine their fate. Fabio Capello has transformed the Russian team into one of the favorites and that could prove to be the hardest game in Group H. Ironically, the game against the young Belgian team which South Korea drew 1-1 with in France 1998 could be the most entertaining game as both sides are known to be teams which play with great energy.

South Korea would then stand an excellent chance of cruising past the rest to gain a place in next round if they can secure maximum point from the first game. We assume South Korea’s head coach Hong Myung-Bo, a former World Cup veteran would know how important the first game will be and would go all out to get that crucial 3 points. Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-Min is the player to watch in this Brazil 2014.

We can see that Asian flags will fly high in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Despite all Asian teams preparing well for the tournament, we can expect another East Asia show with Japan and South Korea progressing from their respective Groups. However, the oppositions which Japan and South Korea would be facing in the Last 16 could be a challenging one as potentially; Japan would be playing one of these 3 strong teams; namely, Uruguay, England or Italy. Additionally South Korea could be playing Germany, Portugal or USA. Nonetheless, as we recall how the South Koreans defied the odds by storming through the World Cup Final in 2002 to eventually clinching fourth placing, emerging as heroes in their own country and placing South Korea and Asia on the World Football map! We strongly believe history could repeat itself again.

Good luck to Asian football at this June’s World Cup in Brazil!

(This article is featured in Singapore’s Brazil World Cup 2014 Magazine which are available at all 7-Eleven, Popular Book Shop and Buzz. Publisher is PCL Publishers (1999) Pte Ltd.)

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