AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023: Big Teams Eye Maintaining Continental Title

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023: Big Teams Eye Maintaining Continental Title By A Robin - May 11, 2023
Asian Cup

Asian Cup

Days before mapping out the path towards the title of the new edition of the Asian Cup 2023 through the draw that will be held in Doha on May 11, the question continues to be whether the trophy will be won by certain teams which formed an axis known as the major traditional powers in the yellow continent that dominated the competition by claiming the cup the highest number of times while losing it only three times out of seventeen editions since its inception in 1956.

Talking about maintaining the title concerns teams that have always played pioneering roles in competing for a championship that bears a great historical legacy at the continental level. They are topped by the South Korean team, the first champion of the two initial editions, then the Iranian team, which dominated the championship on three occasions in a row, to be the only one with this great honor, along with the Saudi team, which tightened its grip on the cup for more than a decade from 1984 to 1996, claiming the title in three of the four tournaments held during that period. The fourth title in the said period was won by the Japanese team, which began to feel the path to glory before its return intensified, imposing itself as a difficult number to win three cups to be added to the first title, bringing the total to four cups.

The list of top teams was not limited to the abovementioned four teams, as others imposed themselves among the elite such as the Australian team, which its first participation was after joining the Asian continent in the 2007 edition. With great glory in the history of the World Cup by attending two German versions in 1974 and 2006, the Australian team played in the Asian Cup final in Qatar 2011, and it was crowned champion in the tournament hosted by Australia in 2015.

The latest to join the list of traditional powers was the Qatari national team, the holder of the last title in the UAE in 2019. With a major project that has become a model to be followed in the making of the continent's champion team and through its great presence in other tournaments such as the Copa America, the Gold Cup, and the European qualifiers for the World Cup as part of its preparations for the first Arab World Cup in the history of the World Cup, the Qatari national team will enter the current tournament as an extraordinary candidate to retain the title it won in the last edition, relying on the great development witnessed in recent years, in addition to being playing home and receiving great support from its fans who demonstrated their great support for national team during the 2022 World Cup.

As history alone is not enough to guarantee continuity for teams, certain great teams found themselves outside the ranking of the major powers. An example of this is the Kuwaiti national team, the first Arab team to win the Asian Cup in the 1980 edition before it suffered a lot in recent years. Another is the Iraqi national team, the winner of the continental cup in 2007 before disappearing in the following versions. The permanent presence in the finals either by winning the title, or becoming the runner-up, or booking a place in the golden square at the latest is the only thing that keeps to big teams their prestige and ensure they become traditional powers. 

Talking about maintaining titles is clear when reviewing the total titles held by Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Korea, Australia and Qatar in the history of Asian Cup, which are amounted to 14 titles out of 17, not to mention the presence of those teams in the runner-up position in eight occasions. One of those teams qualified for the final in sixteen tournaments of which seven finals were for two competitors of those six teams.

The Japanese team tops the list of title winners on four occasions (1992, 2000, 2004, 2011), followed by the Saudi team with three titles in years (1984, 1988, 1996) along with the Iranian team with the same number of years (1968, 1972, 1976) and South Korea in (1956, 1960). Winners of one title are: Qatar in 2019, Australia in 2015, Iraq in 2007, and Kuwait in 1980.

The rankings issued by the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) on April 6 confirmed the leadership of the six teams at the continental level as well as their presence in the first level.

Thus, they are at the top of the six groups in which the 24 teams qualified for the finals were distributed before holding the draw scheduled for May 11 in Doha, which means that there will be no direct confrontations between the big teams in the first round and perhaps in the following rounds if the competitions proceed as expected by ensuring that these teams qualify at the top of their groups.

Although the Qatari team booked its place in the first level as the host of the tournament and will be at the top of the first group in the draw, this was not at the expense of another team according to the international rankings because the Qatari team is among the six best teams in the FIFA ranking, as it ranked 61 in the world and sixth in Asia.

The Japanese national team topped the Asian teams in the FIFA rankings, after it ranked 20th in the world, followed by the Iranian team, which ranked second in the continent and 24th in the world, the South Korean team, which ranked 27th in the world, the Australian team, which ranked fourth in Asia and 29th in the world, and the Saudi team, which came fifth in the continent and 54th in the world.

It was easy for big teams to ensure qualification for the finals very early and through the second stage of the joint qualifiers for the continental championship and the 2022 World Cup. The six teams topped their groups to ensure at that time the passage to the 2023 Asian Cup and to the final stage of the World Cup qualifiers. The Japanese team topped Group F without losing or even draw. The Iranian team topped Group C, and the Saudi team came first in Group D without losing, and so did the South Korean team in Group Eight. The Australian team topped Group B with a spotless record of victories, while the Qatari team topped Group E without a loss as well.

The predictions that the Asian Cup title will be claimed by one of the six teams that make up the major traditional powers are built on the reality of what those teams presented in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 after their great representation to the continent in the World Cup. Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran booked the four direct qualifying cards. The Australian team qualified through the global play-off at the expense of Peru, while the Qatari team reached the finals as Qatar is the host country.

The Japanese team performed well in the World Cup by reaching the round of 16 after defeating two former world champions, Germany and Spain, before leaving the tournament after losing a penalty shootout against the Croatian team. The Australian team also qualified for the second round in a difficult group in which France was present before exiting in the second round after it was beaten by Argentina. The South Korean team also qualified for the round of 16 after its victory over Portugal but was eliminated by Brazil. The Saudi team presented a remarkable level and achieved a historic victory over Argentina at the beginning of its career, but it did not qualify for the second round. The Iranian team finished third in a group that included England, Wales and the US, while the Qatari national team made its first historic presence in the World Cup.


By A Robin - May 11, 2023

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