There were surprises aplenty in Asia midweek with many of the fancied sides in round three of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers failing to pick up expected victories.
Press reaction to the night of shocks and disappointments, which saw little in the way of goals in the key games, varied markedly from country to country. The stand-out matches between China PR and Group 1 favourites Australia and the Korean derby between Korea DPR and Korea Republic both ended in goalless draws, while Japan were stunned 1-0 away to Bahrain.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was the hero for the Socceroos, pulling off a stunning save in the 88 th minute from Shao Jiayi's penalty kick to preserve the Aussies' unbeaten record.
The Sydney Morning Herald was far from despondent with the result, leading with the headline: "Great leap forward in the long march to 2010."
"It's all positive for Australia after a gutsy draw against China in Kunming last night, the priceless result laying a strong foundation for a successful World Cup campaign," the paper went on to say. "It was certainly a point gained by Australia, who fielded four players - Vince Grella, Holman, North and Michael Beauchamp - who weren't part of last month's opening qualifier against Qatar."
The Chinese press could not hide their disappointment at missing a golden opportunity to defeat their group rivals, but still had words of encouragement for their side.
"China will still have high hopes if they prevail in the next head-to-head with Qatar," the Soccer newspaper said. "The next game on 2 June against Qatar is a must-win because if we lose, Qatar will head into the next back-to-back with four points and a clear mental edge."
China Sports Daily, for its part, quoted coach Vladimir Petrovic as saying: "We drew against two strong group rivals and we're still on track. And based on the performances in the opening two games, the team are more than capable of winning the next matches, so we're still hopeful of qualifying from this section."
In contrast, the media in Korea Republic were deeply disappointed by their side's goalless draw, especially considering their dominant record against their Northern neighbours, against whom they have lost just once in 11 games.
Sports Seoul, led with "Disappointing performances of Premiership trio," and though it praised Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung for his frequent bursts down the line, it highlighted the ineffective performances of Fulham's Seol Ki-Hyeon and Tottenham Hotspur's Lee Young-Pyo.
"All in all, the trio seemed to have failed to adapt to an eight-hour time difference, which led to the lacklustre 0-0 draw," the paper said.
The report from the Yonhap News Agency was in a similar vein, raising further questions about the team's over-reliance on its foreign legion: "None of the six 'foreigners' performed well and linked properly with the players from the domestic league. They haven't played for their respective clubs on a regular basis, and long-distance flights and time differences have kept them from playing well. It's ironic that Huh cannot afford to exclude them from the squad, and to leave them on the bench once he's called them up."
In stark contrast, the Japanese media were hankering for the return of their overseas-based stars after being on the receiving end of a dismal away defeat to Bahrain, a Hubail A'ala strike after 77 minutes settling the tie.
All the major papers were quick to point out that it was that it was the first defeat of Takeshi Okada's second spell in charge of the Samurai Blue.
Nikkan Sports lamented Japan's lack of fire power and slammed the "surprising omission of [Naohiro] Takahara" and the "misfiring [Yoshito] Ogikubo and [Seiichiro] Maki" but did not dwell on the absence of Glasgow Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura or Eintracht Frankfurt's Junichi Inamoto, saying: "Concern about where the team goes from here is greater than the three points lost."
Keiji Tamada, recalled after a long absence, told the sports paper: "The opposition were not strong, we were weak."
For its part, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper gave some historical context to the result, saying: "The last time Japan lost a qualifying match, apart from in the final round, was to North Korea in June 1989," and asked: "Where has Japanese football gone?"
The paper also criticised the tactics of coach Takeshi Okada, saying: "The ploy of trying to get behind the opposition with long balls went against us. Okada not only ripped apart the precise playing style implemented by [former] coach [Ivica] Osim, he missed an opportunity to impose his own." The national daily did not stop there either, telling its readers, "What was left didn't bear the slightest resemblance to what Japan is, and the ship may have started to stray off course."
Yet, as you would expect, there was great rejoicing in Bahrain, as it's Alayam newspaper reported: "The Bahrain National football team received royal congratulations from his majesty king Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah, King of Bahrain, following their historical victory 1-0 over Japan."
So, from journalistic criticism to kingly approval - the qualifiers for South Africa 2010 are having a huge impact on people from all walks of life.