[ home ]  [ deutsche version ]
football in: [ 2010 ] [ Today ] [ Germany ] [ Africa ] [ Asia ] [ Internet ] [ Universe ] [ Archives ]
World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special: Asian Coming Out?
 > World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special Index

Asia is predicted far less to by the experts than to Africa. Why this?
Doesn't one say 'there are now minnow anymore?'
The Shot... thinks there has been an 'industrial revolution' in football and the saying should be:
'there are minnows again' and that this revolution has divided Asia into two camps of teams with and without chances to make an impact.

 Go East? What aliens from outerspace might think about East or West you can read in the essay World Cup 2002 - Who Owns The World? that examines the role that the structural relationship of Asia, Africa, and Europe plays in the reception of the game in the world.

 Asia, yet a Cinderella short before the discovery? While Africans are praised for their talent, Asia carries the myth of the diligent learners and workers. While Japan and Korea might be on the mind when making those associations, a team like Saudi Arabia might stand for the opposite pole, the image of an elegant and stylish but in many aspects unmodern game. 
Before the World Cup 1994 there had been one and only one Asian team to win a match at a World Cup final tournament and only this one team had been a serious threat. It was North Korea who eliminated Italy 1:0 in the final first round match 1966 and came close surprising Eusebios's Portugal in the quarter finals, one of the exciting matches in history, in the end losing 3:5. From 1978 on there had been a big difference in the success of Asian and African teams at the final tournaments although in the beginning both were labelled as the same weak. 

 African teams had a much better points per game average than the Asians. Because of the seeding (Africans and Asians were considered as minnows and were only allowed to play against stronger teams from Europe and America but not to play against each other) their first intercontinental encounter was 1994 at USA with Morocco and Saudi Arabia drawn into one group. Here Saudi Arabia got the first Asian win since 1966 and added a second one against Belgium. This made it the first World Cup since 1966 in which Asians were more successful than Africans (by average winning perecentage). 

  A sign of change? Did the experts wrong who promised Africa everything and did not care about Asia much? 
 Many experts speak of the 'small' football nations have closed the gap. It is true that knowledge about the basics of the game has improved everywhere in the world, not at last because television has conquered the space of visual experiences and is delivering almost daily samples to learn from. Especially African players have played in Europe and been able to pass on their knowledge. (Because of the shortage of European based professionals, Asia had to go different ways). 

 But football in the 'old' football world has further improved. It has climbed to its next level: not informations on the basics but on the details of the game. 'Building the athlete'. 
 Technical facilities, new methods, new tactics, the new concept of a team consistsing of 22 instead of 11 players, a higher number of special coaches, etc, it all has made the football especially in Europe stronger. Also Europeans do not tend to be complacant anymore towards the 'small' football nations.
Medical reasearch and developments have made the physical and psychological factor explode in European football, football has just had its 'industrial revolution' or 'scientific revolution'. 

 This revolution is also a revolution of money input and so directly related to the explosion of turnover in European football in the 1990's. When once all financial input went into the salaries of one or two coaches and a group of players an entire factory is now build around the teams including youth factories in which players become nursed, educated and preconfigured. Many non European teams have no chance competing on this level as they just do not have the means.

 But some still profit from the 'athlete building' process as players from around the world play in the European leagues. So for example most of the African and even most of the World Cup co-favorite Argentina's players are under contract with European clubs.
 Not the Asian teams. Stagnation has been the consequence with exaclty three exceptions: Japan, Korea, China who have chosen the 'western' economies as ideal have improved their game with high expenditures, in the case of China and Korea still only with relative succes as those lack the interchange with European experiences.
 But it is obvious how the balance inside Asian football has shifted towards those three: Japan easily won the Asian Nations Cup 2000 and China with similar ease qualified for this World Cup 2002.

 The so much talented Saudi Arabians are the only Arabian team to qualify from Asia and dispite their elegance and success (Nations Cup runners up and direct qualification from the group) stagnation in the game cannot be denied.
 The Asian qualifiers were characterised by much slower and less dense games, often interrupted by injury time outs, especially when compared to the thrilling encounters in the African qualification involving Morocco, Egypt, and Senegal.
 It is conspicious that the only team to change their style somehow, minnows Bahrein, had a respectable impact during the course of the qualification.

 So while 1994 Saudi Arabia still played a good role in 2002, although arriving with a similar strong and stylish football, they are hardly considered a factor for the tournament.

 The unfamiliar conditions in Korea Japan might help them to hide the gap, but it might more helpful when the tournament casts a light on the miserable aspect of development of football of the past decade: a class system between national leagues which constantly widenes as there is a talent AND money flow towards the big leagues leaving the rest of the world only with TV images or a very few national games in which only those are competitive who have a good number players at England, Italy, Spain, & Co.

Diagrams and figures
A. How Asia did in their weak phase 82-90
The following table is taken from the document How Africa was put at disatvantage at World Cups until 1994 from The Shot That Passed Right Through The Net archives. It gives an introduction how tables and statistics can deceive and it proves by mathematical evidence that Africa had deserved more places at the World Cup already much earlier. 
In this table you can see the winning percentage (win per game played, draw is 0.5) of all intercontinental matches (Europe vs. Africa, Europe vs. Asia etc.) played at World Cup finals 1982-1990. (Taking matches Europe vs. Europe into account would only shift the numbers closer to 0.500 because every win then is a loss, too). 
What it means for Asia, is obvious: Asia did not very good on those three occasions and this is probably where the underrating comes from. The good opinion on Africa also came with considerable delay.
                Games    W  T  L         Goals  pct. 
1.EUROPE          81    38 23 20        135-84  0.611 
2.SOUTH-AMER      49    21 13 15         67-56  0.561 
3.AFRICA          21     6  8  7         18-24  0.476 
4.NTH/CTL-AM      21     5  4 12         15-37  0.333 
5.ASIA            15     0  2 13         10-34  0.067 
6.AUSTR/OCEA       3     0  0  3          2-12  0.000

© The Shot That Passed Right Through The Net,
Mail to: 

The Shot is a little piece of display of the ifuz.net object factory