Sunday, January 30, 2011

Japan a dominating force in Asia

Qatar hosted the 2011 Asian Cup and despite their initial defeat to Uzbekistan progressed from their group with wins over China and Kuwait losing narrowly to eventual winners Japan in the next round. The Uzbeks were the most improved team in the rankings during the tournament  winning group A and reaching the semi-final where they fell apart and were trounced  6-0 by Australia finishing forth after bouncing back but losing 3-2 to South Korea. China’s pivotal match resulting in their failure to get out of Group A was their 2-0 defeat to their hosts while Kuwait ended up making the numbers.
Iran negotiated group D with relative ease and were followed into the next round by reigning champions Iraq leaving behind them the barren North Korea and UAE who failed to score a goal between them. A South Korean goal in extra time ended Iran’s hopes in the quarter-finals while Iraq lost their crown in similar fashion to Australia sending the top teams from group C to the semi finals.
Japan started their campaign needing a goal in stoppage time to salvage a point against Jordan who were eventually knocked out 2-1 by Uzbekistan in the next round after victories over Syria and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were a huge disappointment losing all 3 matches finishing the tournament with an embarrassing 5-0 hammering at the hands of Japan. The Japanese went on to knock their host out 3-2, beat South Korea on penalties and defeat Australia with a goal in extra time to win the Asian Cup for a record forth time.
Full reports from the 2011 Asian Cup can be read at score.    


Friday, January 07, 2011

Looking back at 2010

South Africa took centre stage in June and July with the World Cup being hosted on African soil for the first time, but in January Egypt, who had not qualified for the World Cup, won the African Cup of Nations in Angola with a 1-0 win in final against a young Ghana team that continued to impress in the World Cup.  Cameroon had a disappointing year scraping through their African group only to be knocked out in the next round, and losing all their group matches in the World Cup. The unattractive Algerians who progressed from their Africa Cup of Nations group thanks to the head-to-head rule were finally demolished 4-0 by Egypt and failed to score in any of their World Cup matches, though holding a dismal England side to a goalless draw may be considered an achievement. Botswana may have been absent from the final stages of both competitions but home and away wins against Tunisia moved them up in the 2010 rankings and has left them on the brink of qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Spain were crowned world champions, but the Black Stars of Ghana did their continent proud by coming a penalty-kick away from a place in the top four, and New Zealand flew back as the only team not to lose a single match in the finals. Despite a glorious 1-0 victory over Germany, Serbia failed to reach the knockout round of the World Cup and were shortly after that humiliated 3-1 at home to Estonia in a Euro 2012 qualifier making them the team to move down the most, whereas Kuwait who had an active year in the Middle East taking part in friendly matches were the biggest climbers in the rankings battering Bahrain 4-1 and defeating Iran 2-1 on neutral grounds in the process.