Who will represent Japan and Korea?

Crest for Nagoya Grampus

I'm impartial

Ah, the final week. Everyone in teams contesting J. League and K-League championships have to be sure they are healthy up to the kick off time. That’s including minding where is the aftershave bottle and make sure that the meals they were eating have positive agreement with their bowels.

Start with the easier, Korea. Jeonbuk, Pohang, and Seongnam have got the tickets to next year’s ACL. Just like a good K-League season should be: leave nothing to Suwon & Seoul. Meanwhile, Ulsan…well, Ulsan have beaten both aforementioned team, plus Pohang for good measure, and will face Jeonbuk this Sunday in the K-League Championship. So it’s decided: Lee Dong-Gook, Kim Jung-Woo (welcome back, soldier), Mota, Kim Dong-Chan, Eninho, and Seol Ki-Hyeon will fight for the Korean revival (this year’s loss to Al-Sadd is too much) in 2012. Unless they are transferred out. Except if they are transferred out to another ACL competitor from Japan or Saudi Arabia. Or Qatar.

What matters most for me in this year’s FIFA World is for the Japanese champions to reach semi-final match against Santos and to win the Third Place match against Al-Sadd  ES Tunis. Who are the most fitting firm to pounce Auckland City 5-0 before handing down a devastating 2-1 defeat to Monterey and to prove that CONCACAF is ALWAYS below AFC?

Three clubs answer the call and they are only one point separated between them. Kashiwa Reysol have 68. Nagoya Grampus have 67. Gamba Osaka have 66. Marinos, having a good year, are 12 points below Gamba. So three out of Japanese representatives for ACL 12 are already determined. Fourth place goes to Emperor Cup’s winners, which will have its fourth round next month after Club World Cup 11 is over.

Kashiwa have it tough – they will face Urawa, the former Asian Champions now in the danger of going down to J. League Division 2. Which means that the good people of Chiba will be happy to ensure that the good people of Saitama will see  Tatsuya Tanaka becoming the top scorer of D2 in 2012.

Nagoya will also face Albirex Niigata in the northern country. Bruno Lopes is not Josh Kennedy nor Keiji Tamada, so Nagoya will also be victorious.

What about Gamba? They have the toughest matches of all the championship hopefuls – away trip to Shimizu. Even as Korean Lee Keun-Ho can save the day, both Gamba and Nagoya have to rely on a simple fact: That Urawa will defeat Kashiwa. Urawa will do it for sure so that they will survive in the Division One.

Which team has the right to represent Japan in the Club World Cup? I choose Nagoya. I want to see all the hottest Japanese representatives in Toyota and Yokohama: Fujimoto, Tamada, and Nagai. And of course, one of the best striker in Asia this year: Josh Kennedy. Or maybe that I always had soft spot for Nagoya, the city often forgotten behind the Kanto-Kansai duopoly.

 

Anyway, India just got pummeled 0-5 by Zambia in Goa.

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Why I shouldn’t take Asian football seriously

When he was with FC Seoul
You make FC Seoul proud

 

Because AFC still doesn’t take Asian football seriously. Server Djeparov is again the best male footballer in Asia because he can come to the award night in Kuala Lumpur on a Thursday night in November. Nevermind that Shinji Kagawa just scored against Arsenal on the same night – despite a tooth injury. Nevermind that South Korea prove that they cannot live without Park Chu-Young, who wasn’t even on the bench for Arsenal last night. The point is, Djeparov earned 110 points while Keisuke Honda had 87 points.

The justice was that Aya Miyama wins the best women footballer award ahead of Homare Sawa and Ayumi Kaihori. Miyama scored in the 2011 World Cup Final (big apologies for not blogging that great tournament) and hugged Hope Solo afterward. Then the availability of Japanese players in the ceremonies, instead of competing in United States, brought in a sad fact – even United States cannot organize a decent women football league, and women football is still not properly appreciated worldwide.

In Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asian Games (Jesus people, it wasn’t even AFF Cup. How long you do you think Argentina and Nigeria will dwell over Olympics football?) left several nasty impressions for Indonesian and Malaysian football. For Indonesia, mixture of admiration for the successful Young Garudas and the bitter sadness of going down to Malaysia twice. For Malaysia, big relief of defending the title from the previous SEA Games, following the footsteps of the seniors, and the distress on how do the Indonesian supporters express their hatred and anger for Malaysian flag, Malaysian national anthem, Malaysian athletes, and the existence of Malaysia itself.

Malaysia were happy to win twice against Indonesia, going home with coach Ong Kim Swee as a hero, and moving on to the next business for pre-Olympics tournament. Indonesians coped with the loss with various reactions. Some blamed referee Toru Minoru for disallowing two Indonesian goals (nobody pointed out that he also disallowed one Malaysian goal), some did the right thing and applauded the young footballers and the manager, and some even said that the players are not real Indonesians since many of them are Christians.

PSSI, the Indonesian FA, has taken two worse decisions. First, it says no more naturalization. Because it fell out with golden boy Irfan Bachdim (born in Netherlands), it is disappointed with Cristian Gonzalez (spent most of life as an Uruguayan) although he had scored twice against Qatar, it doesn’t need Kim J. Kurniawan (Chinese-Indonesian father, German mother, sister is pregnant with Bachdim’s baby), and is angry with dashing U-23 defender Diego Michiel (born in Netherlands). But most importantly, it is angry with two Nigerians, Greg Nkwolo and Victor Igbonefo. First, they are playing for the wrong club, one of clubs that refuse to play in PSSI’s proposed 24-clubs league. Second, because the Nigerian football association is said to fail to reply on the inquiry if both players had played for Nigeria. So, for PSSI, naturalization gives no quick benefit.

Second, because of the league dispute, PSSI just declared that they will not pick U-23 players who are with the dissenting clubs (well, the majority of top-tier clubs are dissenting), many of them are playing in high-performance club Persipura which reached the 2011 AFC Cup quarter finals. So if Indonesians loved those dashing Papuans in the SEA Games, they won’t be seen again in the already doomed AFC Asian Cup 2015 qualifications.

One thing about naturalization. Yes, Indonesia is much populous than Singapore and football is a sport that everyone follows, unlike Philippines. So naturalization was unnecessary in the first place. I understand that several European players with Indonesian heritage are not that gifted as Nigel de Jong, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and Johnny Heitinga. They were stuck in the 3rd division and so before Indonesia offers them hope of wearing the national jersey. Sergio van Dijk leads a good life in Australia but he knows he won’t be called by the Oranges. Others fall in love in and with Indonesia and have built their families here.

The naturalization scheme of 2010 was a quick-rich scheme, exploiting Gonzalez’s desire to become the best striker and to make the local football sexier with youth like Irfan. Philippines called in the Younghusband brothers and hired the 30s something McEnemy for the same reason. When the scheme failed in the last moment, everyone, both PSSI and the press blame the players. It’s not they demand excellence. It’s more like they were really suckered by that quick-rich scheme.

Matches of interest lately: Suwon – Ulsan 1-3 p (both Seoul and Suwon are out of the 2011 K-League Championship. I know I made a wrong decision by supporting Seoul while I should choose Jeonbuk). Arsenal – Dortmund 2-1 (Kagawa was mercifully not subbed to the end so he could score). Tampines – Home United 1-0 (all the good Etoile 2010 players are now in Tampines). Bahrain U-23 – Japan U-23 0-2 (yeah Higashi & Otsu).

College Boys

At this hour, Malaysia U23 just won the final match in the Southeast Asian Games against Indonesia U23. It was the Young Tigers’ second victory against Indonesia in a week in Jakarta.

So, Malaysian senior and U23 teams have become Southeast Asia’s best, in both occasions, in Jakarta. Oh, I very much appreciate the great dedication and skills possessed by the Young Garudas.  But I am not down with their defeat for several reasons, some of them are subjective.

First, Malaysia are willing to employ ethnic minorities as coaches – Indian Krishnasamy Rajagopal in the senior team and Chinese Ong Kim Swee in the U23 team. I’m not for local coach by default. I’m against over-reliance on Western coaches. You get geniuses like Guus Hiddink (in both counts) and Alberto Zaccheroni and flops like Zico (well, he did very well with Kashima, I’m still unsure about Iraq), Ivica Osim (aah, this is undisputed), and assorted Middle Eastern coaches. The list includes current Indonesian coach Wim Rijsbergen.

Second, Indonesia does not include Chinese-German Kim Kurniawan, on the ground of fitness. But rumors have it that he was ousted because he plays for Persema Malang, a club that has disagreement with the Indonesian FA. On fairness, big credits for Indonesia are due for its shining Papuan forwards, Titus Bonai and Patrich Wanggai.  Ironically, in the match against Singapore, half of Indonesian players are Christians while almost all playing Singaporeans are Muslims. Still, it might be quite a while before Indonesia have its first Chinese player since 1970s. I don’t know if Malaysian Yong Kuong Yong and Singaporean Eugene Luo played even as substitutes, anyway. Singaporean chosen keeper was, er, Izwan Mahbud instead of Jasper Chan.

Third, the jingoism in Indonesian media was so annoying. All kinds of media jumped on it, to the point of launching racist and childish attacks on Malaysia simply because it sells. I just felt strongly that Harimau Muda are the better team and it’s nice to see that you’re right.

This week it’s the turn of the big boys of East Asia in the pre-Olympic tournament. Japan U23 will face Bahrain, South Korea and Australia take away trips to Qatar & Iraq respectively, and my, Malaysia to face Syria on Wednesday. Would they use this same team again?

 

5 Things We Learned from Road to Brazil 14’s Matchday Five

Yes, in the style of Guardian Football’s favorite dish. At this point three matches are still running in West Asia but I only look at East and Southeast Asian teams. The AFC qualifications to Brazil 14 take a three months break after tonight, with cliffhangers still abound.

1. South Korea can’t function without Park Chu-Young

So Park Chu-Young got his second yellow against UAE. Big deal. They got other emerging names trading in England and Germany, not to mention Japan and Western Asia. To replace his position there would be Son Heung-Min (Hamburg), Ji Dong-Won (Sunderland), and Lee Keun-Ho (Gamba Osaka). And those were just the forwards. And South Korea are in an easy group.

Not quite. With 2011 ending and Park Chu-Young is still the region’s top scorer, South Korea have to give all they’ve got next February. After starting the campaign with owning Lebanon 6-0 at home, the Cedars hit back with a 2-1 surprise. Even with a surging Lebanon and a South Korea that went easy with its starting lineup, the Reds should have done better. Their supposedly solid defense, consisting of Cha Duri and ACL winner Lee Jung-Soo broke down in the first five minutes, as if the Lebanese were Nigerians in Durban. The golden boys of Qatar, Yoon Bit-Garam and Koo Ja-Cheol struggled  badly as if they were playing for Gyeongnam and Wolfsburg instead of South Korea, and yeah, thanks Koo for that penalty kick.

If South Korean press and fans are worried, they should be. Ji had a full 45 minutes to save the day, Nam Tae-Hee is an investment made in France, and Lebanon was just a small taste on what an away fixture to Iran or Jordan could taste like.

2. Even a giveaway game for Japan  raises the alarm.

Japan was expected to throw away the Pyongyang fixture. Why risk sending in the A-team to the Bizzaro planet of Republic of Korea? Similar quality, same hatred to Japan, only with worse pitch, ruder opponents, and very hostile laws. The expectation, however, that Zaccheroni Japan could hold a draw. Perhaps a header from Konno in the dying minutes to payback Jong Tae-Se’s screamer. Perhaps a bland 0-0 where the Japanese endured boos and everything for one and half hour. Or perhaps, North Korea had been that bad that Mike Havenaar could score the winning goal through a deflected shot.

Actually Zaccheroni did well in composing his team. Okazaki paired with Maeda, just like in the Asian Cup. Solid A- midfield line with Hasebe, Hosogai, Kengo and Kiyotake. Giving experience point to Nishikawa. The defense is bit dubious but no need to make Yoshida and Uchida working hard.

And so they lost to the Stalinists. While Jong Tae-Se had left the field early. What worrying was both Lee and Havenaar needed more that 15 minutes to score a hypothetical goal. Uzbekistan could do the better job, but then again they were not detained for four hours upon arrival, had no their national anthem booed (and who knew if someone made a tsunami reference? Even Belgians did it to Kawashima), and had no  the spirit  living and ever-present embodiment of Kim Il-Sung fighting against them.

Japan’s alarm is called Uzbekistan. A small mistake next February could cost them the group’s leader position. And that could go a long way in the fourth round.

3. Australia can survive when they have to

The impatient press and fans were at it again, when the Socceroos were still locked down with fifteen minutes to go. A winless back to back matches would be unacceptable. Then Holman headed the ball in. Rather than the single goal, it was the three points that count. Australia go to the next round, again later than Japan but earlier than South Korea (and while Saudi Arabia are still struggling). The surprise loss to Oman had raised calls to replace Osieck with a more high-profile manager with stronger record, a Hiddink Mark II if you like (so what’s Turkey’s Hiddink is called?). But now Osieck is safe, at least until the next surprise defeat. Don’t hold your breath, it won’t be against Japan.

4. Naturalization in Southeast Asia doesn’t work

Singapore began the craze about four-five years ago, following Hong Kong’s habit in the 20th century. The squad that fought in the group stage of Road to South Africa were romantic tragic warriors, composed of Africans, Englishmen, Balkans, and Chinese that had become the new bullies in Southeast Asia. They fought hard and fought well even thought Uzbekistan hit them eight times, they could hit back three. Even though they won by walkout and lost twice because nobody in the highly-disciplined Singaporean bureaucrats checked if Qiu Li was eligible to play.

Fast forward to 2010. Indonesia naturalized senior Uruguayan forward Cristian Gonzalez and recruited an array of half-Dutch and half-German kids. Philippines went further, miraculously found dozens of half-American and half-European boys who have Filipino mothers and are playing soccball (what’s the odd of them to be male on young age, and playing football instead of acting or being nerds?).

November 11. Philippines are nowhere to be found (actually they went down to Kuwait. Better result than in 2008, when they weren’t bother to join at all). Singapore fielded in only two naturalized players, both are above 30 years old. Duric made good impression in the narrow loss in China, but that was all he had done in this campaign.

Indonesia stuck to Gonzalez, but it wasn’t him who scored (yes, I asked for him instead of Boaz. Huh). Indonesia fast-tracked citizenship for a pair of Nigerians but their whereabouts are unknown (either they are in Nigeria for family reasons or they were clubbing in Jakarta). Irfan Bachdim quickly fell out of grace with the FA and the fans and won’t play football for the rest of this year. Not that he was playing in Indonesia’s first matchdays.

So if you want a half-Westerner player, follow Japan’s example. Hope that a son of a foreign parent is good at football and wants to be a footballer. In Indonesia and Thailand that is unlikely since all the half-Western boys are recruited to be actors (well I have a half-English friend who played cricket in school…he’s an engineer). As for Singapore, see how its U-15 team will shape up four years later. If Philippines want its investment to yield, then it’s better for its half-Western players to aim to play in the A-League, the S-League, or lower leagues in Europe. Neil Etheridge can train with Fulham, but he really needs to play 90 minutes under the post.

5. East Asia is still composed of three countries.

That’s the depressing side of watching Asian Football and being a proud East Asian. If you want your Captain Tsubasa, your Asian Goalscoring Superstar Hero, then actually there are only two instead of three teams that wear the jersey: Japan and South Korea. Australia, as always, are the white and big and muscular and rough Asians that occasionally eat pad thai and hit on Asian girls, but they are not Chinese. The only Asian-Australian player (in the East/Southeast Asian sense) I know was Brendan Gan, and he’s not in the A-League anymore. I’m not sure if in the next ten years the Socceroos will have a player from East Asian heritage.

Essentially, the Fourth Round will be a West Asian affair. Most of the East Asian teams have been eliminated ever since the first round. Southeast Asia did pretty well, slipping in three out of ten. And Thailand, although are likely to lose to Saudi Arabia (it’s still 0-0 against Oman, anyway), have done well to bounce back after the Suzuki Cup 10 disaster. But while three West Asian teams, namely Jordan, Lebanon, and Uzbekistan are getting stronger, East Asia shows that it cannot and does not want to catch up. I still believe in Japan, South Korea, and Australia, but I worry that other teams like China, Singapore, and Indonesia are content to watch English Premier League clubs and hosting their Asian tours in summer. As for North Korea, well, you can’t reason with Bizzaros.

“International Break”

I’m yet to discover how do Asian football fans in Japan and Korea think about “international breaks”, where league fixtures are interrupted by back-to-back international matches. For nations such as Portugal and Turkey it was still the first half of nervous minutes, while for teams like England and Wales it was pessimism turned into joy. Unless if the next encounter next Tuesday brings another disappointment.

It was also a tour of duty for both teams – a stay in Western Asia for South Korea and the wonderful trek of Stalinist (well, you can argue that about Uzbekistan – they still have hideous statues don’t they?) Asia for Japan. But the mission to qualify for the fourth round has been accomplished, at least for Japan. It was good to see Lee Keun-Ho scoring again, while Havenaar was still so so.

As for Australia, well, Oman are really the pebbles in their shoes, aren’t they? It was just like Bangkok 07 again, and back then there was Cahill to save the day. Kennedy (and Holman) weren’t that heroic. I’m looking forward for Singapore v China, while Jordan needs another test against their newfound awesomeness – 9 goals to 1.

Regarding Group E, I’m not sure which I hate more – Iran (obvious), Qatar (because of 2022 and Al-Sadd), Bahrain (where Peter Taylor said he’s never heard of anyone called A’ala Hubail), or my own country Indonesia, where the new idiotic regime that is running the football association (even much worse than the previous one) arranged 38 year old Hendro Kartiko (no offence to Mr. Kartiko, but he’s ain’t van der Sar) to guard the box. To my surprise, last weekend I supported Qatar just so that that new arrangement could be proven ********.

The current name is in A-League is Albanian Besart Berisha from Brisbane Roar. Regarding the continuing A-League, anyway, I wonder if Nick Carle and Archie Thompson still deserve a place in the Socceroos – and if Ryan Griffiths is worth it. Anyway, Australia don’t need to replace Osieck yet. Such is the reality of Asian football – you’re not everything. Something that Japan ought to remember at every match.

 

Anyong North Korea and Other Happy Thoughts

Thanks to a spam comment, I found an English K-League blog. And yet, as usual, it’s written by Westerners instead of Koreans :p. The long quest to find fellow English-speaking Asian football fan continues (that’s also a reason of the long inactivity in this blog).

Anyway, matchday 4 of WCQ tomorrow. Yesterday read this report from Pyongyang, and after reading it, I’ve grown to hate North Korea more. Who thought that even Uzbekistan players were not only more accessible, but were also scared with the atmosphere? Tomorrow it was the turn of North Korea to see the lighter version of their dystopia. Uzbekistan, ironically, like other Central Asian states, looks upon South Korea as the um, strategic economic partner.

The deal is simple. If Uzbekistan win and Japan also defeat Tajikistan, both are likely (to understate the latter – thank you FIFA for kicking out Syria), it’s anyong North Korea. Perhaps the post-South Africa punishment left deep scars for the team that even their Japanese and European based players couldn’t regain the glory of 2008 qualifications…up to that game against Brazil. Of course, the 0-7 defeat to Portugal wasn’t a sudden fall from grace. Like the trip to Pyongyang suggest, homegrown North Koreans could be trained to run fast and tackle hard and to keep in line, but only the Japanese know how to improvise and to make personal judgment. Perhaps the point of whole story is this: Jong Tae-Se has passed his prime in the national team (and this is a man who is a regular at 2. Bundesliga. But the Southerns play at THE Bundesliga, haha).

Move on with other previews. Jordan will ace the group of life (in the sense that there’s no big bad boy here) against The Old Lions Singapore (which did great job of preventing Malaysia to experience six international matches) 2-0. The Deebs are that potent, evident in their away 2-0 victory to Iraq. Iraq would win 1-0 against China in Qatar, so much for the Spanish revolution. Unless the Guangzhou players could show their stuff – then 1-1 then.

Powered by Park Chu-Young, South Korea should have it easy against UAE, which would go down with a fight. 1-2 maybe?  Kuwait have been improving lately and are still unbeaten, but Lebanon are not pushovers anymore, at least in the last two games. So it can be a high-tension 2-2. Or a bland 1-1.

On second thought, Japan might have not that easy against Tajikistan, although even an uneventful 0-2 victory is enough for them. Uzbekistan might also have hard time unlocking North Korean defense, although eventually they will,  even if only once. Even if through penalty kick.

Australia would also have fun with non-performing Oman, where Kennedy would continue his winning form. Saudi Arabia might have their first win to Thailand, unless the Elephants, fueled to present something for the nation in distress, could be so fired up and hold the declining former powerhouse to a satisfying draw.

Ah, Bahrain v Iran. Now that’s one Western Asian match I’d like to see (it might be broadcasted in Indonesia, tho). Will Bahrain recover from their pummeling? How would the host keep their nervous smile in front of the Shiite visitors? Would, performance-wise, Bahrain become the North Korea of West Asia? We’re talking about a team which narrowly almost went to South Africa and still gave hard time to Australia and South Korea last January.

Finally, Qatar versus Indonesia. Like the previous match in Jakarta, the outcome will be decided by Indonesian terrible defense and Qatar’s scoring inability. This time Indonesia bring in two naturalized Nigerians. Don’t think they can do better than Jeonbuk Motors player, by the way.

Recess

This morning, at least two Asian-American footballers have been playing for their clubs in the MLS Cup Conference Final. Chinese-American Brian Ching led the strike for Houston (failed to score, while his Honduran sub Costly did) and as I’m writing Filipino-American Nick Rimando is tending (heh, classic American term) Real Salt Lake’s net. Hope they’d meet in the final, where somebody has to lose.

O yeah, the ACL Final. Jeonbuk got the home advantage. More than 40 thousands were actually care. Lee Dong-Gook was fit enough to play and there was a chance he didn’t have to intervene. AND YET THEY STILL LOST.

I don’t know what really bugs me. The poor finishes, or that Al-Sadd have the knack to beat Korean teams in their turfs, or Lee Jung-Soo is that good, and what makes him good is that he doesn’t play in the K-League (one reason for the racket scandal is that K-League players are underpaid), or Jeonbuk is neither The Losers or the A-Team (only Seo Jung-Jin is called for next week’s World Cup Qs), or that I have to root for any team against Al-Sadd next week and hoping them to do better against the perfidious African trio.

Or the worst case: The ACL is not worth it. Japanese teams (and probably fans) are once more ignoring the League some years after winning them back to back, and Korean teams and fans are probably too. Suwon didn’t chase their case against referee Malik Abdul Bashir for allowing a goal condemned worldwide (except in Qatar, the Middle East, and probably Senegal. Not really sure about Japan). Certainly non-Mad Green Boys fans of Motors showed up and showed their supports, but it didn’t happen before the finals (was it simply because the final was on the weekend?).

I’m still pondering if an Asian outfit are the elite, the all-stars, the great team of Asia. Certainly that’s not happening. Not Gamba Osaka or Kashima, not Jeonbuk or Seongnam (which is too creepy to be liked, anyway), not Adelaide United, not various teams in Saudi Arabia. I know this is not only the case in Asia – same stories are happening in South America, Africa, and CONCACAF (well MLS have attracted better names, but in the Champions League they are still struggling).

Better leave it right there. Congrats to Lee Jung-Soo and best of effort for Jeonbuk in the K-League Championship.

 

Big break for Japanese and Korean leagues. Their final rounds will resume after matchday five of WCQ, including Japanese big match against North Korea. The A-League, tho, will still be in play next weekend, since only three A-League players are on duty against Oman & Thailand: Kewell (Victory), Nichols (Brisbane), and Emerton (Sydney). Australia also have same amount of players coming from J. League – Kennedy, Brosque, and Spiranovic.

In Europe, Park Ji-Sung and Ji Dong-Won faced each other (not many times since they were both attacking) as Ji came in as early substitute to replace injured Connor Wickham. Kagawa played great part in Dortmund big 5-1 against Wolfsburg (both Koo and Hasebe were on bench) and Hajime Hosogai scored in Augsburg 1-2 defeat to Bayern Munich (Usami was again not used).

This is What Happened

The last time I posted was in St. Valentine’s Day. That’s clue #1. Between that night and tonight, there have been lot of things going on. The first was the tragedy that hit Japan. It froze Japanese football for a while, but overall it’s been a meaningful and fruitful year for Japanese football. J. League legends returned for charity match against the national team, where Shinji Okazaki met Kazu Miura.

Summer…my, what a summer. Japan won the FIFA Women’s World Cup. I stayed on ESPN SportCenter every night just to see glimpses of how did the Nadeshiko go. Nobody outside Japan really paid attention, but well, even in Europe women football is also seen with a chuckle.  So the men won the Asian Cup against a re-surging Australia, and the women won against heavy favorites such as Germany and United States (unfortunately Eurosport Asia didn’t broadcast the tournament and the only match I followed through Guardian Football was Japan v England :p.

Australia unfortunately didn’t get to replace Japan in Copa America. Well, they share longitudes and DVD region, Australia sees its football team as rival to Uruguay, and I really want to see how do Australia fare in South America (this calls for a FIFA 12 tournament).

Highlight for this year is the 2014 World Cup Qualifications. I was happy that three Southeast Asian teams made it to the group stage, including Singapore and Indonesia :). Yeah they will last at the bottom, where their current strengths are, compared to Middle Eastern sides (but wehey, here’s Thailand at second place! Being in a group with Saudi Arabia is a true blessing!). The next two games are coming soon.

The bad side of missing out for 9 months (really, a friend has given birth during that gap) is that I’ve missed out most of J. League. The report and review, that is. My cable provides two live matches every weekend with a Singaporean highlight program in mid-week. So I know my Havenaar and tidy-cut Kennedy. Unfortunately KBS World doesn’t broadcast K-League, which is now in the championship phase. Jeonbuk Motors really earn my respect this year.

As for ACL…nobody really watches it, isn’t it? Another forgettable year for Japan, and since THAT incident in Suwon, now I’m really hating West Asian football. Good call for Lee Young-Pyo to leave the Saudi League. As for Lee Jung-Soo, well, he has to work somewhere and he’s good.

As for Asian players in Europe…well, not a big breakthrough as last year was. Kagawa still does great jobs with assists but not scoring, Honda and Lee Chung-Yong are sidelined for months. Okazaki is still finding form. Park Chu-Young should have stayed with Lille.  Morimoto starts to fall out with Novara (which is much better town than Catania). Even Tim Cahill doesn’t score anymore.  In short, no Asian player yet to make into the top scorers roll in various European leagues. On the good sides, many of them are now regular starters – Koo, Ki, Kawashima, Yoshida, and Hasebe to name a few.

So, I’m back to blog. The pleasure of seeing Asian players contributing to victories, the pleasure of seeing Japan and South Korea being victorious, the pleasure of reporting their matches, and the pleasure of seeing passionate and orderly Asian female fans (n/a in West Asia) keep me coming back.

Coming up: J. League final rounds, AFC Champions League final, K-League Championship round, the A-League, FIFA World Cup Qualifications, Olympics qualifications, Southeast Asian Games (no women football, bummer), and the FIFA Club World Cup. And the Indonesian League that will eventually come.