Will a rise in home grown talent lead to an East Asian team in the World Cup final? Asks Leon Emirali.
At the 2002 World Cup, South Korea reached the tournament’s semi-finals and finished as the 4th best-placed team in the competition. Germany 2006 saw Australia as the only AFC nation to reach the knock-out round, and in 2010, South Korea were joined by Japan as Asian football’s ‘last man standing’ as both teams bowed out at the Second Round phase.
Despite South Korea’s best efforts on home soil in 2002, Asian football has yet to establish itself as a serious contender on the global scene.
But, there is reason to suggest that the tide is slowly turning.
South Korea, Japan and China’s respective football federations have all put an emphasis on nurturing home grown talent with the aim of strengthening the national side’s performances and player pool. Although, China have already failed to qualify for the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the Chinese Super League has encouraged investment in home grown talent following the shambolic and failed recruitment of world-renowned, blockbuster names last season.
This time around, clubs are quietly recruiting local, lesser-known players as China continues its quest to bring home an Asian Champions League title for the first time since 1990, as well as giving former Real Madrid and Spain boss Jose Camacho a chance of achieving regional success with the national team. In Korea, it’s much of the same, seeing 2012 Asian Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai feature only 4 foreign players in their continent-conquering squad.
It has to be considered too early yet to suggest an Asian team could reach the World Cup final, and indeed win, but as the domestic leagues continue to flourish and attract investment, the race will be on between the Asian and African continents as to which will produce the first non-European or South American team to lift the FIFA World Cup.