Saudis in off-field win before Japan, Koreans exit World Cup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Hours before Japan and South Korea endured painful second-round exits from the World Cup in Qatar, continental soccer rival Saudi Arabia had plenty to celebrate.

All India Football’s decision to withdraw from the race to host the 2027 Asia Cup, announced while all footballing attention in East Asia was focused on the knockout games of Japan and South Korea on Monday, left Saudi Arabia as the only candidate to host the competition. continental championship

South Korea, who lost 4-1 to Brazil, and Japan, who were beaten by Croatia after a tie, had more progress in the World Cup than either Qatar or Saudi Arabia. On the pitch, though, the power in Asian soccer goes to the western side of the continent.

Saudi Arabia is set to officially confirm as host 2027 in February when the Asian Football Confederation meets in Bahrain. It will be the first time that the country has organized a continental tournament and it could also lead to the World Cup in the future.

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“People forget that Saudi Arabia has hosted many international events including the 1989 World Youth Cup and three editions of the Confederations Cup,” Hafez Al-Medlej, a former member of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and AFC, told local media. The 2027 Asia Cup will be one of the most successful Asian competitions given Saudi Arabia’s ability to host sports events and this will show that the country will be able to host the World Cup in years. next “

While teams from East Asia have traditionally performed better in soccer’s marquee competition – South Korea’s run to the World Cup finals when it hosted the 2002 tournament with Japan was the best performance by an Asian team – West- South Asia has continued to make strides in the running of the sport.

The United Arab Emirates hosted the 2019 Asia Cup and Bahrain Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa is set to be named as AFC President for the third time in February. Qatar won a challenge from South Korea in October to host the 2023 Asia Cup, using facilities created for the World Cup.

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The Korea Football Association responded to that decision in October with a statement that reflected some of Qatar’s lobbying.

“Qatar has promised substantial financial support, such as the participation of additional sponsors by its own companies in the AFC, which is currently suffering losses due to COVID-19, a large-scale broadcasting rights agreement with its own broadcasting company, and support for operating expenses of the Asian Cup,” KFA said in the statement.

Saudi Arabia has never hosted the Asian Cup, which it has won three times since the inaugural event in 1956. The most recent title was in 1996.

Hosting the 2027 edition was designed to be a blockbuster tournament when the Saudis, Qatar, Iran, India and Uzbekistan first submitted bids more than two years ago.

The Indian Football Association says the Asia Cup in 2027 does not fit its strategic priorities.

“India has always been a wonderful and efficient host to major tournaments, which was amply demonstrated in the recently concluded FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup,” AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said in a statement. “However, the Executive Committee has decided that the general committee of the current federation is on focusing on important goals to strengthen our football at all levels from the foundation to youth development.”

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World Cup host Qatar was awarded the 2023 edition of the Asian Cup after China surrendered its hosting rights, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That competition is expected to be pushed back to January 2024.

The Korea Football Association said in October that it would take time to reflect on its failure to win the Asian Cup, saying it would “do more research and practice on measures to strengthen international competition and soccer diplomacy in the future.”

In the short term however, as Japan and South Korea left Doha, they knew they would be back soon.

AP World Cup coverage: and


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