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Qatar tribune

Tribune News Network


In the first FIFA World Cup in Asia in 20 years, the first two big shocks of the tournament have come from Asian teams — Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Japan notched a stunning upset at the Khalifa International Stadium as they came from behind to beat giants Germany 2-1 on Wednesday. Japan’s players admitted that Wednesday’s memorable victory over Germany was inspired by Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina the day before.

Saudi Arabia did the unthinkable by stunning Lionel Messi-led Argentina 2-1 at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.

So, is this the rise of the unusual Asian heavyweights? Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa sure thinks so.

“This is indeed Asia’s time and there is no better way to underline this celebration than with the qualification of a record six teams at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in our history,” he had said before the World Cup kicked off in Doha on Sunday.

He was referring to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, South Korea and Japan, who have booked their spot in the tournament, alongside hosts Qatar.

The six teams can take strength from the fact that the last time Asia hosted the tournament back in 2002, South Korea reached the semi-finals while Japan made it to the Round of 16.

With the prospects still intact — or at least alive — here is a closer look at the six Asian teams.


With their stunning win against Germany, Japan are supremely confident on the road ahead despite being placed in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ along with another European heavyweight Spain, and Costa Rica. Almost three decades ago, Japan came within seconds of qualifying for their first World Cup, only to concede a stoppage-time equaliser to Iraq which sent South Korea through instead.

Japan finished their first-round qualifying journey of Qatar 2022 with 46 goals from just eight matches and in the second round, it was once again their attackers who guaranteed their seven consecutive FIFA World Cup appearances. The Blue Samurai did slump to defeats against Oman and Saudi Arabia but with the duo of Takumi Minamino and Yuya Osako scoring 10 goals each over the two rounds, it was easy sailing for Hajime Moriyasu’s side.

Saudi Arabia

Like Japan, unheralded Saudi Arabia notched one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina. The Green Falcons are another side that cruised through the qualifying process with just one loss in two rounds. Salem Al Dawsari and Saleh Al Shehri top-scored with seven goals. Drawn in Group C with Mexico and Poland, there is an outside chance for the Asian giants to reach the next stage. This is the sixth appearance for the top Asian side in the FIFA World Cup.

South Korea

Son Heung-min and Co had a relatively easy journey to the FIFA World Cup 2022 with five wins out of the six games in the first round and just one loss in the second round. The Tottenham superstar led his team by example as he was the top-scorer with six goals but it will be tough for them to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Round of 16 from a group featuring Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana.


They were a bit lacklustre in their Group B opener as England breezed past them 6-2 at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday. This is Iran’s sixth appearance in the World Cup and with Wales and the United States in their group, their task to reach the playoffs is cut out.


The Socceroos unfortunately went down 1-4 to defending champions France in their opening game of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Al Janoub Stadium on Wednesday morning. They had the longest road to the World Cup as they defeated Peru on penalties in the inter-confederation playoff. Although their qualifying campaign started on a superb note, with them topping their first-round group with absolute ease, things will not be easy for the Socceroos as they ace dark horses Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.


Making their FIFA World Cup debut, and perhaps overcome by the occasion, Felix Sanchez’s Asian champions Qatar suffered a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Ecuador in their Group A opener at Al Bayt Stadium. Placed in Group A along with Senegal and Netherlands, the road ahead is going to be tough for Al Annabi.

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