FIFA’s leader wanted an Asian advancementFIFA President Joseph Blatter expressed a mild regret on Wednesday that none of the Asian teams and only one of the African teams made it through the group stage in the World Cup. He said that the better conditioning of the European teams was the reason, and that the general failure of Asian teams was not good for the region.
Except for Ghana, four African nations, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Angola, and Togo, were all eliminated in the first round.
The FIFA president said the quality of competition in their groups made it hard for them to advance.
“Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast] were great to watch. They were in a difficult group; otherwise they would have gone through. Tunisia came close as well, but let points slip against the Saudis and Ukrainians,” said Mr. Blatter in an interview with FIFA that was posted on its Web site. “Overall, I find that African goalkeepers trail a little way behind in terms of technique. With the possible exception of Ghana ― Richard Kingson had a good World Cup ― they need to improve. Lastly, sometimes they didn’t have much luck with the marginal decisions.”
Making a comparison with the joint South Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup, the president said, “A lot of the traditionally dominant teams arrived in a weakened state in 2002. You have to take that into consideration as well. This time, we’re seeing quality play from players who came here fresh. They’re in good shape.”
Citing South Korea, which was the only nation to fail to advance despite having four points, Mr. Blatter said at least one Asian nation should have gone through the group stage.
“It’s not a good thing for Asian football, and I find it a shame, but I consider it to be an accident.”
Already soccer experts have cited concerns that the lackluster performance by Asian teams could result in a decreased quota of slots allocated to the Asian region for qualifying at next year’s World Cup.
The referees have come under much scrutiny at this year’s World Cup, and Mr. Blatter admitted he was less than happy with their performance.
“I’ve noted that instructions aren’t being followed consistently from one match to another,” the president said. “There are the tackles from behind I’ve seen go unpunished and violent conduct that has escaped sanction, not to mention serious errors made in applying the rules.”
Nevertheless, the president said video replays would not be considered because doing so would “restrict” referees in the execution of their duties.
by Brian Lee