2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Important lessons for Asia

Asian teams failed to repeat their milestone achievements of the 2002 FIFA World Cup after all of them packed their bags for home after the group stage.

For Peter Velappan, the Asian Football Confederation's general secretary, the tournament is not all about disappointment, however. Here he talks to FIFAworldcup.com about the Asian teams' performances in Germany - and the lessons they have learned.

FIFAworldcup.com: Did you watch all the games played by Asian teams in the group stage? What is your general impression of their performances?
Peter Velappan: I watched all the matches. It is rather disappointing to see four of our teams, namely Iran , Japan , Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia fail to progress to the last 16. But at least we still have Australia who carry the hopes of emulating our achievements at the previous FIFA World Cup four years ago.

So you see it as the right decision to have welcomed Australia as the newest member of Asian Football Association (AFC)?
Definitely. Australia have a different style from most Asian teams. They have a lot of European-based players and they are physically strong and attack-minded. Their involvement in Asian competition will help increase the motivation of the other continental teams and this is good to lift the overall levels of Asian football.

For a long time Iran have been your favourite team so are you disappointed with their displays this time round?
Iran failed to live up to expectations largely because they didn't play well as a team. Individually they are very good players, both technically and physically. They have no shortage of international experience either as many of these players are European-based. I always believe once they can unite well as one solid group, they can play against any opposition. It was the poor team management and lack of unity that cost them dear.

Korea Republic came very close to booking a place in the second round before being eliminated by Switzerland. If we compare this to their heroics in reaching the last four in 2002, how big a disappointment is this?
Korea Republic are one of the most tactically established teams in Asia and they achieved great things four years ago by playing their style of football. We can see in this FIFA World Cup they again showed their never-say-die spirit and had some bright moments but the team paid for the tactical mistakes this time round. In 2002 they employed the correct game strategy, launching attacks from midfield with dangerous crosses. They made full advantage of their speed and running, which showed Asian players' edge over European players. But in the game against Switzerland they used long-ball tactics, which benefited their European opponents who are taller and physically stronger.

Japan would have done better had they converted the chances they created in the opening match against Australia before losing the game in the last eight minutes.
The results would have been totally different had they grabbed one chance to double the lead. Japan played well as a team with good spirit and motivation and they also produced good chances. But they just lacked one or two good strikers to convert the chances into goals. Also, the fact they conceded three goals against Australia in eight minutes reflected their physical problems. Actually for most Asian teams we need to improve our play in the last 20 minutes, when fitness and physical energy are pretty much gone.

What did you think of Saudi Arabia's efforts?
They showed good progress in both techniques and tactics compared with their disappointing campaign four years ago. But they were inconsistent in their performances in the three matches because despite playing a good opening match against Tunisia, they were totally outpowered by the European teams, Ukraine and Spain. This proved they desperately lack exposure and experiences against European opposition, taken into consideration that they don't have any European-based players in this team. They could also improve on their mental strength.

Despite all this disappointment, do you see any positives?
I am always delighted with the continuous progress made by Asian teams. These defeats are a good lesson for our teams  they can learn from their opponents and their mistakes as well. The AFC is going to hold a special seminar on this FIFA World Cup, to which we will invite all AFC members.

Last question, which team are your favourites to win the tournament?
With all of their world-class stars and strong football tradition, Brazil are always favourites on the big stage. Germany also impressed me in their past games so if I can make two selections, I'll go for Brazil and Germany.