Asian and African teams in World Cup
When it comes to World Cup, everybody talks about Brazil, Italy, Germany, Spain, Argentina, France i.e. mainly Latin American and European nations. The main reason is that all the previous editions have been won by only eight teams from those two afore mentioned continents – no team from any other continent has ever won the World Cup. Teams from Africa, Asia and North America have failed to put up a consistent fight at the biggest level, let alone winning it. Asia and Africa are having four and five representatives respectively in last few World Cups. But, they are yet to reach the final of World Cup. Till date, the best performance from an Asian team was South Korea’s semi-final appearance in 2002. And a few African teams like Ghana (in 2010), Senegal (in 2002, that too in their first World Cup appearance) and Cameroon (in 1990) have played at the quarter-final stages. But as a whole, their success is very much limited.
Soumyadip Das takes a look into the performances of the Asian and African teams in World Cup Finals.
Many experts and journalists attribute this continuous failure to their lack of technique and temperament. While the European or South American teams are excellent in skills as well as fitness, African and Asian teams are not as good as them in terms of technique. In 2010 quarter-final match between Ghana and Uruguay, Asamoah Gyan of Ghana missed a penalty in the extra time when the result was 1-1. That penalty would have sealed the match for Ghana and they could become first team from Africa to reach the semi-final. Some people say that they were unlucky, but according to many, there was lack of temperament and that’s why they were out of the World Cup. On the other hand, they are very inconsistent too. Senegal reached quarter-final of 2002 World Cup, but since then they have not been able to qualify in any other edition.
In this year’s World Cup, Cameroon showed they are just the shadows of once Indomitable Lions. They crashed out of the group stages losing all three matches and conceding four goals in two of those matches. Ivory Coast, considered by many as the best African side, again could not cross the final hurdle.They conceded a silly penalty in the dying seconds of the last group match against Greece.The golden generation could not handle the pressure and keep the composure and paid the ultimate price for that – a return ticket to home. Ghana showed promise for the future but could not break into the knock outs from a tough group. But Nigeria and Algeria made it a memorable edition for Africa as the first time in history, two teams from the continent made it past the group stages.
One reason for the African teams’ under achievement over the years has been explained quite well by the legendary German footballer and manager Franz Beckenbauer. He said that African teams are mostly individualistic which has been their biggest problem. With his vast experience in FIFA as an executive, he observed that most of the African players, who play in the World Cup, play their club football in Europe. Despite of that, they look to play individual games rather than team game. They don’t unite themselves to succeed at the biggest stage.
In the other age group tournaments, the scenario is little different. Take for example the U-17 World Cup, Nigeria and Ghana have won it four times and two times respectively. Even in U-20 World Championship, they have done quite well. Now the question is what happens to them after that? Some experts say that in a poverty-stricken continent like Africa, if some players get huge money from the reputed European clubs, they consider it as an unbelievable achievement. As a result, they don’t practice that hard and soon find themselves out of the team. Also, as their economical condition is not very stable, they don’t get the extra-ordinary training facilities. As a result, their fitness and strength don’t reach up to the World-class level.
The overall performances of the Asian teams are even worse than the African teams. Only South Korea reached the semi-final in 2002 when they were the co-host. But that remarkable success was very much under the cloud. They beat Spain, Italy with some controversial decisions in their favour. Apart from it, Japan and Australia (Since 2010, they play as an Asian team) have reached the round of 16 in a few occasions, but never went beyond that. The reason is most probably their inferior technique compared to the other teams and their lack of hunger for success. Australia, in 2006, met with Italy in the round of 16. After playing a great match, in the extra time they conceded a controversial penalty and lost the game. Some experts say that Australia should have won the match much before the extra time. But, due to some poor finishing from Aussie forwards, they couldn’t win the match.
Australia, after being migrated in the Asian Football Confederation, has put a good show at the international level. But they suffered this time from being drawn in a really strong group. But, it has to be said, they did make themselves count – especially in the match against the Dutch –even after conceding three goals en route all the group match losses.On the contrary, Japan and South Korea have stagnated over the last few years. They squandered the chances of having a decent run after being put in very reasonable groups and managed only a draw a piece in the group matches. May be they fell short of the physical demands of the modern game. That is where Iran’s performance caught the eyes. They had a memorable match against Argentina and only a late Lionel Messi magic robbed them off a historic point in World Cup. They had to win against debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina in their last group match to qualify for the knock outs but again their gap in class proved their nemesis.
Overall, we can see that some Asian and African teams have reached up to a certain stage in the World Cup. But they have been failed to reach the final and also they haven’t been able to do that consistently. There is no doubt about their potential as they are very successful in the age-group tournaments. But there is a pressing need to change in their training facilities as well as their technique and attitude. Only this can help them to achieve better results in the days to come.