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Thursday, December 8, 2022
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There’s still an Asian-class football gap

By Suresh Nair

YOU watched Sunday midnight’s opening World Cup between host Qatar and Ecuador?

The 2-0 scoreline in favour of the South Americans showed an element of competitiveness but the truth of the matter, is that there’s still a yawning gap especially in terms of top-class experience.

Not to worry, Asian teams are slowly but surely closing on this gap without any lop-sided results.

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Agreed, it wasn’t the result that many in Qatar would have hoped for. The host looked nervous and struggled against an opposition possessing hardcore experience and quality. In truth, the game was all but over at halftime, with Ecuador comfortably 2-0 up thanks to two goals by Enner Valencia.

PHYSICALLY COMPETITIVE

In my opinion, Asian teams should simply give their 100 per cent in every match, chase for every ball and be as physically competitive over 90 minutes.

I was happy that the opening ceremony itself focused heavily, not only on football, but also on unity, with performances giving a nod to all the countries playing in this year’s rare-in-the-desert tournament.

No doubt, Qatar were second-best. Ecuador overwhelmed them from the first minute of the game. Every set piece they had, they just dropped it in the box, and they were just better. They were winning first balls, they were winning second balls. 

To be honest, physically, they bossed the game in the second half. They started passing around them, they were playing in their half. They bossed the game. That’s all it was.

FIRST HOST TO LOSE

Freezing in the desert is not easy but Qatar managed it on Sunday night in becoming the first host nation to lose an opening game at a World Cup. No other host country in the competition’s 92-year history had ever lost the opening game.

I must put on record that Qatar were so monumentally bad before the break that thousands of their fans that had packed out the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium in Doha never bothered returning after the break, the traditional white thobes and black abayas replaced by empty red seats.

But hold your heads high, Qatar, there’s still a yawning gap especially in terms of top-class experience. But mark my words: Asian teams are slowly but surely closing on this gap without any lop-sided results.

The writer is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.

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