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Asia Makes Early Exit from World Cup

Posted June. 26, 2006 07:49,   


For 3.9 billion Asians, which consist about 60 percent of the world’s population of 6.5 billion, the World Cup Germany 2006 has now become someone else’s festival.

On June 24 Korea, the “hope of Asia,” lost to the Swiss, and all four Asian countries, Korea, Japan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, that participated in the World Cup failed to advance to the round of 16.

Under such circumstances, the Korean soccer community is already concerned about the World Cup 2010, which will be hosted in the Republic of South Africa. They are worried that the World Cup spots allotted to Asian countries might be reduced.

At the World Cup Germany 14 spots were allowed to Europe, including the host country, five tickets to Africa, 4.5 spots to both Asia and South America respectively, 3.5 to North and Central America, and 0.5 to Oceania. Half a spot means that spot will have to be fought over a playoff with another continent. In other words, Asia’s fifth place team plays against North America’s fourth placed team, while Oceania’s first place team faces off against South America’s fifth placed team in order to play in the World Cup.

All continents are persistently pressuring FIFA in order to obtain even half a spot more for their continent. The most persuasive reason to request FIFA for additional spots is World Cup performance. Before the start of World Cup FIFA President Joseph Blatter said that the number of world cup spots for continents would be adjusted according to the performance of Asian teams. Put differently, if their performance is poor, spots might be reduced, and such worst-case scenario has turned into reality.

Asia is the only continent that failed to advance a single country past the group stage. Hence the situation looks quite grim. Ten out of 14 European countries, three out of four South American countries, and Mexico from North America advanced to the next round. Furthermore, the African country Ghana succeeded to advance to the following round and even Australia from Oceania, with only 0.5 ticket allowed, passed the group stage.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com