The Asian Cup – final thoughts

As the climax of the tournament approaches, with a final between Australia and Japan, our correspondent reflects on the

 – The Asian Cup is still the least loved, or noticed, of all major continental tournaments, but less so. The Copa, the Euros and ACON have a huge edge, but the quality of the tournament is getting better with every edition.

– Blatter talked of India being a potential World Cup host. Their team though was way behind anything else on show in Doha. Until the basics needs of training facilities and a decent domestic league are in place India is destined to struggle.

– What exactly will Saudi Arabia do next? Their brief stay in the Qatari capital involved the firing of two coaches and King Abdullah organising the removal of the football federation’s president.

– Qatar could yet qualify for a World Cup before 2022. Their team just has to drop the seemingly addictive habit of conceding late goals. Guardiola just one name being linked to a long-term development job.

– Football culture in Qatar is still a big work in progress. Fans are reluctant to head to a stadium unless the home team are playing. The match day ritual has to evolve beyond the flicking on of a television.

– After grappling with a GPS over vast tracts of South Africa no game here was more than a few minutes drive away. It will make Qatar 2022 unlike any other tournament for visiting fans and media.

– The Doha vote which saw Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al Hussein become a FIFA vice-president could be crucial for Sepp Blatter’s future. Prince Ali is a Blatter fan. The man he replaced, Chung Mong-Joon of South Korea, was a potential rival.

– Which brings us to Mohammed Bin Hammam, president of the AFC and a Qatari. When Blatter said 2022 could move to the winter, Bin Hammam did not hesitate in contradicting him. A powerful man already, he may well be the one to replace Blatter. That June election for FIFA president could yet be interesting.

– The 2022 summer/winter debate is here to stay for a while. A Qatar World Cup organising committee or similar will not be formed until March at the earliest and they are the only people who can request a move from June-July.

– Australia named as 2015 hosts. A more different proposition to Qatar could hardly be imagined. It underlines the unique and sprawling identity of the Asian Cup. And the need to keep hold of that GPS.

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