Thought Leadership

Positive signs for Asian football as World Cup approaches


By Ben Marlow

August 24, 2022

Thought Leadership

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With the 2022 FIFA World Cup now only months away, it’s that time when all participating nations are looking forward with hope and expectation. Historically however, teams from Asia have had little reason for optimism, with the standard of the world’s leading teams often too much for Asia’s finest – with South Korea’s stunning semi-final run in 2002 (the last World Cup to be hosted on the continent) remaining a significant outlier in recent times.

Using our Intelligence Engine we have taken a look at where Asian football stands in the shadow of the 2022 World Cup, and whether there could be cause for optimism for Asian teams ahead of the tournament in Qatar.

What are the progression chances of Asian teams?

There is cause for optimism, with nearly a four in five chance (78%) of an Asian team reaching the last 16 – a feat achieved only by Australia (2006), Japan (2002, 2010, 2018) and South Korea (2002, 2010) since 2000. There is a one-in-three chance of a quarter final, and a one-in-10 chance of reaching a semi-final, which has only ever been achieved by South Korea in 2002.

What percentage of the world’s best players will represent Asian sides?

Only two of the top 100 players at the tournament are Asian (Son & Teremi) – equal to North & Central America. Unsurprisingly, Europe dominates with 70% of the top 100 players, while South America are second with 20%. If Asian teams are to enjoy more success at future World Cup’s, this is a stat that will need to improve significantly over future years. Investing in talent pathways through enhanced coaching, encouraging opportunities for young players in domestic football, and creating opportunities for promising young players to get meaningful playing time overseas would all help accelerate the development of Asian talent.

Is Asian club representation on the rise?

A look at the percentage of players at the World Cup who play for Asian sides, shows there are positive signs that Asian domestic football is making progress. This World Cup will likely feature more players playing for Asian teams than the previous two editions, reflecting both the commercial development of Asian leagues who are increasingly able to pay players good salaries, and the improvement in quality of Asian domestic leagues.

As an established supporter of Asian sport, who advises several leading Asian football organisations, we would love to see Asian sides achieve success at the World Cup and continue to build on the positive strides made in Asian football in recent years.  

If you would like to find out more about our work in Asia or Performance Intelligence services please get in touch with Ben Marlow

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