The FIFA World Cup is highly dominated by European and South American countries. So much so that apart from the nations from these two continents, no other nation has won the World Cup.
Yes, that means no African or Asian countries have touched the crown jowl of this beautiful game.
But, it’s not like Asian countries have not gotten close. There were instances in various editions of the World Cup, where Asian countries have put in a praise-worthy performance!
And with the World cup just around the corner, set to be hosted by Qatar this winter, let’s look at some of the best performances by Asian teams in the previous editions of the World Cup!
Saudi Arabia, 1994 World Cup
Saudi Arabia, headed by Argentine coach Jorge Solari, lost their opening game 2-1 to the Netherlands but responded with strong performances against Morocco and Belgium, whom they defeated 2-1 and 1-0, respectively, to advance to the tournament’s final 16.
On July 3, 1994, Sweden put an end to Saudi Arabia’s aspirations of moving farther in the completion. The Arab team gave it their all and managed to find the back of the net once, but they were unable to prevent the Swedes from scoring three times.
North Korea, 1966 World Cup
North Korea performed admirably in the 1966 World Cup, which was hosted by eventual winners England. North Korea, managed by Myung Rye-Huan, was defeated 3-0 by the Soviet Union but still advanced in the competition.
Following the Soviet defeat, the Korean squad rallied to draw 1-1 with Chile before defeating Italy 1-0 to advance to the tournament’s quarter-finals against Portugal.
North Korea put up a valiant fight but was defeated 5-3 by Portugal, led by Benfica great Eusebio, who was the tournament’s leading scorer with 9 goals.
Japan, 2018 World Cup
Japan won their first game against Columbia, winning 2-1 but later had to settle for a draw with Senegal and a 1-0 defeat to Poland.
Yet that proved enough for them to qualify for the Round of 16 where they were destined to meet Belgium.
The match had everything football can give.
The Samurai Blue looked on track to reach their first quarter-final in three last-16 attempts after going 2-0 ahead early in the second half, only to see Belgium roar back and snatch a 3-2 win with an explosive counter-attack deep into stoppage time.
Nacer Chadli’s scored the last-gasp winner in the 90th minute, ending the Asian team’s dream run in what was their best-ever performance in a World Cup with six goals in four matches.
South Korea, 2002 World Cup (of course)
South Korea was generally eliminated in the first round of the World Cup, but under Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, they astonished everyone by reaching the tournament’s semi-finals in 2002.
South Korea, one of the 2002 World Cup hosts, defeated powerful teams such as Poland, Portugal, and Italy, as well as historically defeating Spain on penalties in the competition’s quarterfinals before being eliminated by Germany thanks to a Michael Ballack goal.
Park Ji Sung, who had great success with Manchester United, was an important player for South Korea in 2002.
This run still remains the greatest ever by an Asian team!