Thursday, July 19, 2007
Some Asian Observations
Apart from the games involving the four host nations, the attendances have been terribly disappointing. Parochialism is surely only part of the story; there appears to be a widespread belief in south-east Asia that the big European clubs are the only foreign footballers really worth turning out to see, which is a shame.
The South Korea v. Saudi Arabia fixture in Group D was the only game between "foreign" teams that attracted a five-figure crowd, and yet the football in that game, although of a good quality, was not by any means open or entertaining. Perhaps the best game I've seen so far at the tournament was Iran's opening win over Uzbekistan, with the winger Javed Kazemian to the fore.
Were the tournament to be held in Australia, though, would the football public show more interest? Sadly, I suspect not.
That's right, there's been surprisingly little. Oman tried a bit against Australia (though not as much as some have claimed - they certainly had nothing at all on Shanghai Shenhua), and Korea, surprisingly, resorted to some theatrics against the Indonesian hosts last night, in the desperate search for as many set-pieces as possible. Otherwise, the tournament has featured little of such chicanery.
And there is a corollary to that:
Once again, we expected the worst after some of the lily-livered officiating during the Asian Champions' League. But the men in black have given a pretty good account of themselves on the whole; even Messrs. Shield and Breeze, our two (2) representatives, have lifted their game.
Is it possible that, under the watchful gaze of the AFC bigwigs, both the players and the referees have been rather more willing to enter into the spirit of the game than during their Asian club ties?
Last but not least:
It's been good. Certainly better than we expected, and although the host nations have clearly lived beyond their means thanks to the conditions, some of the displays of Thailand and Vietnam have been impressive; even the Indonesians, though somewhat hit-and-miss at times, have been competitive. The Gulf nations are, as we knew, technically adept, but they are not to be overawed physically either.
If there is a general weakness across all the Asian teams, it is surely finishing. Calmness in front of goal, the ability to stick the ball into the back of the net - it has been lacking for many of the teams at the event.
As the Asian nations begin to export more players to the tough European leagues, however, I feel this aspect of their play will slowly improve.
As for the finishing, well we're going to fit right in. Nah to be fair I think we've actually been OK in this regard so far in the tournament. Helps having Dukes in goal-scoring form and confidence for once in his international career.
I've been a little caught out by the tournament. As you say Mikey, it's definately of a higher standard than I expected, perhaps a little arrogantly.
Crowds have been very disapointing sadly. It definitely makes me wish i'd considered going along a bit harder. But the debts incurred in Germany last year are still a bit too large to consider even the (relatively) cheap Thailand. Hopefully the stadiums get filled a bit more during the knockout stages.
That was my sentiment exactly, actually. ;-)