Euro 2020 Special

Asian Challenge at the World Cup Ended

The Asian challenge at the 2002 Qatar World Cup is over.

The continent had five representatives in Qatar, including Australia who for footballing reasons count as part of Asia, but with the elimination of both Japan and South Korea in the round of 16 on Monday, their interest in the tournament is now over.

South Korea’s achievement of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup on home soil in 2002 remains the best that any Asian side has achieved in the history of the tournament.

Still there have been some memorable moments as far as Asia is concerned.



Qatar is the third Asian country to stage a World Cup, after South Korea and Japan shared hosting rights in 2002.

The upsides and downsides about choosing the Middle East kingdom have been – and will continue to be -endlessly debated, but, in sporting terms, Qatar are won of the weakest teams to have played in a World Cup final. They lost all three group games, becoming the first host nation to do so, and were the first country to be knocked out of the competition.


Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia caused one of the biggest shocks in the history of the tournament, when they came from behind to stun Argentina in their opening game. However, they could not repeat that feat in their next two games, and back to back defeats to Poland and Mexico saw them knocked -out at the group stage.



Geographically Australia form part of the Oceanic Football Confederation (OFC). However, they chose to leave the OFC after the 2006 World Cup and join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) instead because they wanted to play more competitive matches, and because they wanted a direct path to the World Cup.

(Teams from Oceania have to play in an intercontinental play-off)

Ironically, Australia only qualified for this World Cup after being Peru in a play-off, but they can consider that they did themselves justice in this campaign, despite being well-beaten by France in their opening game. Despite being on the back-foot against Tunisia they beat then by a single goal, and then pulled off another shock to beat the Danes and quality for the last 16.

There they met a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina, but, despite being second best for much of the game, a late goal gave them an opportunity, and they had chances that would have taken the match to extra time (and potentially penalties).



Japan caused not one but two big World Cup upsets by beating both Germany and Spain, despite having less than 20% possession in both games. Although a disappointing loss to Costa Rica was sandwiched in the middle they still qualified for the round of 16 behind Spain.

In their knock-out game against Croatia, they took a first-half lead, only for the Croatians to equalise, and it became the first match at this year’s World Cup to go to extra time.

With no further scoring, it eventually resulted in a penalty shoot-out, but, unfortunately for the Japanese, they fluffed their lines badly and missed three out of the four spot kicks which they took.

A lack of experience ultimately costs them. Croatia had won seven out of eight previous World Cup games that had gone to extra time, whereas Japan had lost the only other one they had contested.


South Korea

Chronologically South Korea were the last Asian team lefty standing in the World Cup, because they played their last 16 game after Japan.

They were somewhat fortunate to have got to that stage, having begun their campaign with a goalless draw with Uruguay, before going down to Ghana. It meant that they needed to beat Spain in their last match, and hope that they could better what Uruguay did against the West Africans,

In the event, they came from behind to win with an injury time goal and progressed at the expense of Uruguay, thanks to the number of goals scored.

However, they were then completely outclassed by Brazil, found themselves four goals down and it could have been more. To their credit they did pull a goal back in the second-half, but Brazil; had taken their foot off the gas by then, and had resorted to showboating.




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