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No big upsets in group phase of Asian Cup

The 16-team group stage of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup currently being played in Qatar is over. South Korea and Australia have made it to the quarterfinals, but India as expected have gone home.

Reason to celebrate: Koo Jo Cheol scored four times for South Korea in the group stage

Reason to celebrate: Koo Jo Cheol scored four times for South Korea in the group stage

Things mostly went expected during the group stage. Saudi Arabia was a big disappointment but there weren't any real upsets. Many had hoped this tournament would mark a breakthrough for Asian soccer, but the start was pretty slow.

"You come to any major tournament and the first round is always a little bit conscious and haphazard because nobody wants to lose and nobody really wants to give away too much in the opening games," journalist Michael Church, who has been covering Asian football for years, explained to Deutsche Welle.

Although he said that the matches generally got better as the tournaments progressed, he did admit that "the depth of talent at national team level in Asia is probably not deep enough to justify having a 16-team Asian Cup."

Fans are happy that hosts Qatar survived the group stage

Fans are happy that hosts Qatar survived the group stage

South Korea are impressive

The pre-tournament favourites had been Australia, Japan and South Korea. Michael was most enthusiastic about the Koreans' blend of youth and experience.

"In the past, they have only really been building up every four years for World Cup qualifying. And the thing that has impressed me most with them is the fact that they have come here wanting to win," he said.

Coming to the surprise element of the tournament, Michael named minnows India who returned to the Asian stage after 27 years and showed spirited performances although they did lose all three of their matches.

"It's good to see that the work that coach Bob Houghton has been doing with the team over the last four years is paying dividends, by coming here and not being completely humiliated - which is the fear that a lot of people had."

Iran - South Korea, again

The quarterfinals now start on Friday with hosts Qatar taking on Japan, Uzbekistan playing Jordan and Australia facing defending champions Iraq. And then, there will be the usual Iran versus South Korea match-up.

It is the fifth time in a row that Team Melli will take on the Taeguk Warriors in an Asian Cup quarterfinal. The stats are even with two wins for each side. And there is added flavor in Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi having been part of the South Korean team management in the past.

Author: Arunava Chaudhuri (Doha)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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