Football fans worldwide witnessed 12 days of high-quality football as the 2022 FIFA World Cup ended its group stages, and the AFC is doing well. Of the 16 teams left in the competition, only a few would have predicted half of the Asian delegation to do as well as they did.
The performance of the AFC nations so far during the World Cup generated more than enough buzz for the global footballing community. The exceptional performances put on by Japan, Australia, and South Korea saw the three squads from the AFC make it past the group stage, a first in the competition’s history.
While these three nations will be the toast of Asian football for a bit longer, the rest of the Asian delegation also put up a good fight. From Qatar’s debut on the World Cup stage to Saudi Arabia’s dream upset of the tournament favorites, let’s assess how each country has performed in this one-of-a-kind World Cup so far to make your football-viewing and sports-betting experiences in sites like OKBET more fun.
Qatar’s FIFA World Cup Debut
The hosts came into this tournament with slightly better chances when compared to Japan and Korea. There are no heavy hitters in Group A since Sadio Mane had to sit out of this tournament. The reigning AFC Asian Cup champions had a shot at squeaking through the groups as long as they kept competitive.
Unfortunately, the World Cup debutants received a hiding as they became the first host country not to make the knockout stages. They had no answer to Ecuador as Enner Valencia put two past them. Mohammed Muntari etched his name into his nation’s footballing annals as the first Qatari to score a World Cup goal four minutes after his 74” substitution appearance. Still, the Mane-less Lions of Teranga roared three past Meshaal Barsham to squash their hopes of making it out of groups.
The Netherlands ensured that The Maroon exited with little fanfare as Frenke de Jong and Cody Gakpo scored to win 2-0.
Saudi Arabia’s Dream Upset
Saudi Arabia had a tricky Group C in the 2022 FIFA World Cup: they had to play against established football giants in Argentina, Mexico, and Poland. Their opponents are football powerhouses, and only a few expected anything out of the Falcons. The pundits were eventually proven right as they finished at the bottom of their group after a disappointing loss against the Biało-czerwoni and a heartbreaker against El Tri.
However, almost everyone will remember their stint in this tournament for their incredible comeback win against the Albicelestes. After ending the first half down a goal from a Lionel Messi penalty, coach Herve Renard gave one of the most hair-raising half-time speeches of the tournament so far. Saleh Al Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari responded to their manager’s words to complete one of the tournament’s most improbable comebacks.
Iran’s Battling FIFA World Cup Performance
Like Qatar, Iran had a kinder draw regarding their chances of making it past the groups. England were the only team pundits had locked to make it out of Group B, so they had a shot as long as they beat USA and Wales.
They started the group stage horribly as they were thumped by the Three Lions, 6-2. Mehdi Taremi carried his two-goal performance to push them over Wales by assisting Ramin Rezaeian’s goal. It provided an extra cushion to Rouzbeh Cheshmi’s score three minutes earlier in a game with an eyebrow-raising 11 minutes of added time.
This result set up a do-or-die match against the USA, where they had to stop Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic. While Captain America had to leave the game due to injury, he scored the only goal to send the Persian Lions packing.
Australia’s Danish Delight
Grouped with France, Denmark, and Tunisia, Australia had to sink their teeth to rank second in their group. Fortunately, they managed to eke it out thanks to their solid performance and some luck.
The Socceroos started the group stage on the back foot after a 4-1 beatdown to defending champions France as they failed to stop Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud. They managed to bounce back against the Eagles of Carthage by protecting Mitchell Duke’s sublime header in the 23rd minute. They managed to make it out by beating Denmark on the backs of Matthew Ryan and Matthew Leckie.
South Korea’s Dream Win
South Korea had their work cut out for them. Portugal and Uruguay were heavy favorites to make it past the group stage. Ghana also won against a solid Switzerland team ahead of the tournament. However, the Taegeuk Warriors pulled off an incredible performance to squeeze their way into the knockouts.
They held La Celeste to a scoreless draw, frustrating quality attackers like Luis Suarez and Darwin Nunez. Korean fans who made the trip to Qatar got nervous about their chances after Mohammed Kudus scored the 68th-minute winner in a narrow 2-3 loss to Ghana.
Their final confrontation against Portugal saw Ricardo Horta put the Seleção das Quinas ahead in the fifth minute. However, the Son Heung-min-led Korea mounted an impressive comeback thanks to goals by Kim Young-gwon and Hwang Hee-chan. The win saw them leapfrog Uruguay and make it to their contest against Brazil.
Japan’s Dominance Arc
In a World Cup filled with incredible comebacks, only a few can hold a candle to the legendary Cinderella run by Japan. Grouped with European powerhouses in Germany and Spain, the Samurai Blue were in for a tough time.
However, they started their 2022 World Cup campaign with a legendary upset of Die Mannschaft. The goals scored by Ritsu Doan and former Arsenal striker Takuma Asano will be shining moments in Japanese footballing lore.
While they tripped against Costa Rica, they completed their anime-like run to the knockout stages by pulling off another stunning upset against La Furia Roja. This time, Ao Tanaka joined Doan in scoring the critical goals that will see them square off against Croatia.
What’s Next for Asian Football After the FIFA World Cup?
These outstanding performances by the AFC delegation in the 2022 FIFA World Cup paint an encouraging picture for Asian football fans. The fact that almost every Asian country put on a good fight against the most prominent footballing nations shows that the talent gap between the AFC and the rest of the world is shrinking.
While the rest of the continent is still trying to catch up, it’s not hard to imagine China, Iraq, Vietnam, and Oman making strides over the next four years for a World Cup push.