Asia’s poor showing may mean lower quota

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Asia’s poor showing may mean lower quota

The knockout stage of the World Cup began without a single Asian nation. Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Korea combined to win just one game (by Korea), tie four times and lose seven.
The results could mean Asia’s regional quota is lowered for the next World Cup.
Before this year, FIFA adjusted the regional quotas largely based on the 2002 World Cup. It first removed the automatic berth for the defending champion, and then gave an extra half-slot to Asia and North and Central America. The success of Korea and Japan for Asia, and of the U.S. and Mexico for the Americas, contributed to the change.
With the alteration, Asia got 4.5 spots and North and Central America had 3.5. The half-slot meant that depending on the playoff between teams from the two regions, Asia could be represented by either four or five nations, and the Americas could send either three or four nations.
This year, Trinidad and Tobago, the fourth-place nation from the Americas, beat Bahrain, fifth from the Asian qualification. Asia and the Americans were thus both represented by four nations.
During the Asian Football Confederation’s general meeting last November, President Mohamed bin Hammam expressed confidence the continent would have more success in Germany and receive additional slots. But the disappointing showing has subdued the optimism.
Still, the Africans performed almost as poorly, and they will most likely not get an extra slot at Asia’s expense.
After Cameroon’s Cinderella run to the quarterfinals in 1990, becoming the first African nation to accomplish the feat, the continent began sending five representatives, rather than four. This year, only Ghana has reached the second round. The continent’s record was three wins, three draws and nine losses.
If the next World Cup host South Africa receives the automatic spot, the continent will have six slots, which some critics have said would be excessive.
The surprising run to the round of 16 by Australia is also encouraging, given that the Aussies will play in the Asian qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup.
The decision on the regional quotas for the next tournament will be made in FIFA’s annual general meeting next year in Switzerland.

by Yoo Jee-ho
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