The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar has made that clear. Asia is no longer the fringe, and South Korea is no longer a force to be reckoned with.
The Asian Cup ended with Qatar winning the title. The 24-team tournament was a huge box office hit with a total of 1.5 million spectators. It showed that the Asian Cup can be a box office draw and a money maker. There were plenty of highlights, including the rise of Middle Eastern teams, the rebellion of Southeast Asian teams, and the fall of the favorites. Qatar’s second straight victory after being eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup 안전카지노사이트 in Qatar was also worthy of applause.
It’s clear from covering the Asian Cup that the Asian stage is no longer a walk in the park. After reaching the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup in Korea-Japan, South Korean soccer’s stature has risen with stars like Park Ji-sung, Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, and Kim Min-jae playing overseas. It became more than just a powerhouse, but a dominant force in Asia. The team’s international achievements have been spectacular, including back-to-back World Cup appearances, a bronze medal at the Olympics, and back-to-back gold medals at the Asian Games.
This made it easy for many to overlook the Asian stage. Although the objective infrastructure and individual players’ skills are clearly inferior, they have invested more in the system than in the past and are producing many good players, and the Middle East has even designated it as a national project and is investing huge amounts of capital to develop it.
A prime example is Qatar. The country has invested heavily in the soccer industry, acquiring Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and hosting the World Cup and Asian Cup. In addition, the Aspire Foundation is actively promoting academy programs to develop players who can play in Europe. From youth to club to national team, the country has become a powerhouse in Asia with the support of the state.
Saudi Arabia is no exception, and Southeast Asia is also trying to get better by adopting foreign systems. The likes of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand have shown that they are competitive and have the potential to be. They will surely be even better at the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia in three years’ time.
We shouldn’t think, “We’re a powerhouse!” or “We made it to the round of 16 at the World Cup, so the Asian Cup is easy! We don’t want to be embarrassed, humiliated, and even worse, upset in the next Asian Cup.