The principal target for any team in any game is always the same: victory. One of the forerunners in Asian Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ nonetheless came in for criticism despite achieving this objective on Wednesday, while another two of the region's heavyweights received widespread praise for their maximum points return. FIFA.com reflects on the media reaction to the latest set of results in the region.
Australia edged Bahrain 1-0 in Manama, a stoppage-time goal pocketing them third successive win and consolidating their position atop of Group 1. Despite this, however, the result did not go down well back home.
Western Australia commented that coach Pim Verbeek's side "stole three points to continue their perfect start", an opinion shared by The Australian: "."
Like thieves on a cool Manama night, a Mark Bresciano goal in the dying seconds gave Australia a valuable 1-0 away win despite being completely outplayed
Not that those receiving the criticism disagreed. The Socceroos' substandard performance was labeled "embarrassing" by captain Lucas Neill, while Verbeek described it as "the worst performance since I've been in Australia".
Erasing the agony
Japan's 3-0 win in Qatar evoked a contrasting, encouraging reaction. Doha was the scene of one of the team's most heart-breaking moments, when an 11th-hour equaliser from Iraq denied them a place at USA 1994. Japan's convincing triumph in the Qatari capital two days ago went some way towards erasing the memory of the 'Agony of Doha'.
"In their first World Cup qualifier in Doha in 15 years, Japan made sure there were no late heart-breaks this time," wrote the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. "Wrapping up the year on a high note, Tatsuya Tanaka, Keiji Tamada and Marcus Tulio Tanaka were all on the mark as Takeshi Okada's side firmly rebounded from last month's disappointing home draw with Uzbekistan".
Joining Japan in celebration were neighbours Korea Republic, who were satisfied to beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and end their enduring jinx against west Asian sides. "With the win over the Saudis, Korea Republic shook off their poor history on the road in the Middle East," commented the Sports Seoul newspaper. "It was a timely boost for them ahead of their trip to Iran next February. This could be the beginning of a great escape from the 'group of death', which contains three difficult sides from the west."
Huh Jung-Moo, the coach of the South Koreans and a previous target of the critics, was also applauded. "It's been a successful year for Huh's generation shift", said the Yonhap news agency. "He had been criticised for his reckless experiments, calling up 51 players, including 21 debutants, in his 16 matches in charge. But the 2-0 victory against nemesis Saudi Arabia silenced all the critics and put Korea Republic firmly on top of their group."