The 2011 AFC Asian Cup has reached the semifinal stage and the world's largest countries by population, China and India, are long gone. There is still some work to be done before either becomes a football powerhouse.
Team China had a mixed success in Qatar and were finally eliminated
The world of football hopes that the two new power engines in the world economy are going to play a bigger role in the ball game in the years to come.
FIFA boss Sepp Blatter wants China and India to play a bigger role in soccer
"It's my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India," FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently said after granting Russia the right to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Qatar the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This is good news for football in these two countries, but the ground reality is totally different in China and India.
"There should be comparisons between China and India as they are growing economic powers, but it is a difficult one in football," points out Indian national coach Bob Houghton, who has managed China and Uzbekistan in the past.
Indian national coach Bob Houghton has managed China in the past
"When I was in China between 1998 and 2004, you could see this growth in football with stadiums and training facilities being built and top division clubs with facilities of English Premier League standard. But we lack this in India and have problems running our I-League with stadiums not available."
Team China well ahead of the Bhangra Boys
And if you take a look at the way the two sides came into the Asian tournament and the results here in Doha, then there is also a huge gap between the two nations. China came through the qualifiers second to Syria; while India qualified by winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, a second tier national team competition in Asia.
China, which were above their group rivals in rankings coming into the Asian Cup, had a mixed tournament in Group A. They won their opening encounter 2-0 against Kuwait, but lost their crucial second game 0-2 against hosts Qatar and drew 2-2 in an interesting match against Uzbekistan to finish third in their group, which meant elimination.
India had a tough match against South Korea, losing 1-4
India, meanwhile, were drawn in the toughest of all groups, in Group C. Little was expected from the Bhangra Boys, who suffered a 0-4 thrashing to Australia, a 2-5 loss against Bahrain and a 1-4 defeat against South Korea. India had returned to the Asian stage after 27 long years and showed glimpses of talent in all their three matches, but they still have a long way to go if they are ever to catch up with the best on the continent.
Both sides will now be closely watched, but whether these emerging football nations ever become powerhouses remains have to be seen. They both hope at least to return to the Asian Cup in Australia four years from now.
Author: Arunava Chaudhuri (Qatar)
Editor: Anne Thomas