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2010 - The Qualifiers So Far - Part 2

Monday, September 28, 2009


All the Asian automatic qualifiers are already announced with Japan, Australia, South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea all winning the right to play in South Africa next year. Australia went unbeaten in their 8 games in the 4th Round of qualifiying while the DPRK narrowly snatched the automatic qualification from Saudi Arabia who must now play Bahrain in a two legged playoff with the winner facing New Zealand in attempt to book their place in South Africa.

Japan were considered to have a stronghold in the Asian qualifiers among football circles from the very start and eased through their group in the 3rd Round of qualifiers before finishing second to Australia in Group 1 in the 4th Round of the qualification stages. Japanese coach Takeshi Okada guided the Blue Samurai to the World Cup in 1998 and repeated the feat in this past qualifiying route. Japan managed to advance past the Group stages of the World Cup in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament with South Korea however in 2006, they weren't so lucky and only scraped a single point in a 0-0 draw with Romania. The majority of the Japanese national team are based in their home country and few of their players have made it to Europe but they may find some inspiration and hard work from former Arsenal star Junichi Inamoto who now plies his trade at Stade Rennais in France while Shunsuke Nakamura's trade mark set pieces may help the Okada Daiyho out of some sticky situations. Japan may find themselves in a group where with some grit and guts they can advance to the second round at the very most but I can't see them advance any further with their current squad.

Australia topped Group 1 in the 4th Round of the Asian Qualifiers, easily pipping Japan to the top spot. The Ozzy's lost just twice as they marched towards dominance, disappointingly failing away to Iraq and Bahrain in the 3rd Round of the Qualification stages. Australia made a good showing in Germany in 2006, managing to escape from a Group which included Asian rivals Japan, South American giants Brazil and European black horses Croatia. Australia are a force to be reckoned with and under the guidance of current coach, Pim Verbeek, it is a very realistic possibility that they can extend on their 2nd Round finish in Germany in 2006 after being knocked out by eventual champions Italy in a close encounter. Men such as Everton star Tim Cahill, his counterpart Lucas Neill and also former PSV star Archie Thompson will help the Socceroo's to extend upon their horizons.

South Korea
South Korea provided a massive shock to worldwide football fans when they managed to secure a fourth place finish when playing on home soil in 2002. The Tigers of Asia breezed to Qualification again this time round, easily topping Group 2 in the Fourth Round of Qualification. Currently unbeaten in 26 matches, the Taeguek Jeonsa will look to continue this run into the World Cup in the hope of reliving their relative success in 2002. An Asian team is yet to win a World Cup and many posed the question of a Korean win in 2002 following their defeats of European giants Portugal and Italy. I don't think we'll see an Asian win this time round but with a replication of their performances in 2002 and blood, sweat and tears from players such as Park Ji-Sung and Monaco striker Park Chu-Young, it is a possibility that will advance past the Group stages depending on circumstances, however don't bank on this outcome.

Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Just North of South Korea are their counterparts from the DPRK, who some would say are sworn enemies. Hidden behind the facade that is North Korea, it is hard to get an idea of the standard of football in the North Korean leagues and very little is known of these leagues however the performances of their star players on the international scene would provide reason to believe that it is of at least a high Asian standard. The DPRK managed to pip Saudi Arabia to automatic qualification on goal difference and in 12 qualifiying games, conceded just 7 goals but scoring just 11. They encountered their Southern colleagues on three occasions managing to hold them to a draw each time. The North Korean national team are remembered to this day for their outstanding 1-0 defeat of Italy in the World Cup in 1966 in England. They booked a place in the Quarter Final and despite going 3-0 ahead against Portugal, an unbelievable showing from Mozambiquan maestro Eusebio, silenced the North Korean faithful. Little is known of the abilities of the players in the current North Korean squad however, Ahn Young-Hak who plays down South with Suwon Bluewings is a solid midfielder and can play a fluid game alongside Kim-Yong Jun who is a star at Chengdu Blades in China. Jong Tae-Se who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan is their current top scorer with 11 goals in 18 games and his firepower will be much needed if North Korea are to attempt to qualify from the Group Stages for the second time in as many tries.


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