Asian teams had a forgettable campaign in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with all four representatives condemned to early elimination after group phase. All the more agonising was the fact that not a single victory was gained on behalf of the world's most populous continent from all twelve matches for the first time since Italy 1990.
The miserable results left the fans acoss Asia bemoaning; but as hindsight conveys wisdom, the local media opted to focus on analysis on the performances instead of criticism of outcomes. After seeing their team become the first Asian team to pack for home with three straight losses, the Australian media were quick to dig out the problems facing them.
An article entitled "Now Socceroos know what's needed" from the Sydney Morning Herald threw light on what Australia should do if they are to compete against the world's best. "After measuring Australia against the world's best, now coach Ange Postecoglou knows what is needed. A killer instinct. Better concentration. Greater squad depth. A more effective attack," the story read.
"We haven't got the results that we wanted," Postecoglou was quoted as saying by the same article, "The one objective we did have was to measure ourselves against the very best and I think we have done that. We know exactly where we're at."
For Asian champions Japan, this campaign served as a brutal awakening from their FIFA World Cup dreams. Despite putting in some impressive performances through their trademark passing and pace, the Japanese crashed out with a 4-1 loss to Colombia in the closing game. The result levelled their biggest FIFA World Cup defeat against Brazil at Germany 2006. Star player Keisuke Honda had openly announced their intent to win the FIFA World Cup but the results showed that they were still far from ready, as an article from Japan Times pointed out.
"Japan set the seal on its early exit with a 4-1 defeat to Colombia on Tuesday, showing far more fight than in its previous two matches but ultimately losing to a superior side that proved ruthless on the counterattack," the story said. "There are few if any positives to take from Japan’s hugely disappointing World Cup campaign, but the team must make sure that the lessons of Brazil do not go unheeded."
The fact that Japan were soundly beaten despite their dominance against Colombia left Zaccheroni with more food for thought. "This means there’s something missing,” the Italian, who quit as Japan coach in the wake of their last match, was quoted as saying by Japan Times in another article.
Korea Republic, who were winless for the first time since 1998, were critiqued by an article from the country's leading Yonhap News Agency. "In their 1-0 loss to Belgium, the team did everything offensively but to score a goal. Statistically and aesthetically, there was little question about which was the superior offensive side at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. Korea Republic outshot Belgium, by 18-16, and also held the edge in shots on goal, by 12-11."
There were, however, moments to savour for Asian supporters, with both Australia and Iran coming close to springing a surprise. In the process, the former made the high-flying Netherlands sweat throughout only to be edged by 3-2, with Tim Cahill cancelling out Arjen Robben's early strike with what should be among the candidates for the goal of the tournament.
In an article entitled "World Cup 2014: the best and worst of the group stages" from the Sydney Morning Herald, the author labeled the New York Red Bulls player's goal among the tournament's finest strikes. "Tim Cahill's extraordinary first-time volley that put Australia level with the Netherlands takes some beating," the article said. "The fact that it crashed off the crossbar first makes it only more beautiful."
Carlos Queiroz's Iran, for their part, reduced strongly-favoured Argentina to a solitary-goal victory, with Lionel Messi scoring the match-winner with a last-minute strike. Despite the result, the Iranian fans did find the cause for celebration as Iran Daily reported. "Iranians poured into the streets to pay tribute their team’s valiant effort," an article from the country's leading newspaper said. "Long past midnight firecrackers exploded and car horns honked, and the street were jammed throughout Tehran as though it were rush hour."