Skip to content

Asian powers polar opposites in Wednesday friendlies

Feb 6, 2013, 5:21 PM EST

FBL-WC2014-EUR-ASIA-CRO-KOR-FRIENDLY Getty Images

While you never want to read too much into February friendly results, two of Asia’s powers provided another hints of growing gap at the top of their region. Japan, who sit eight points clear of Australia in their World Cup qualifying group, posted the expected rout of Lativa, winning 3-0 in Kobe. South Korea, on the other hand, were overwhelmed by Croatia, embarrassed 4-0 at Craven Cottage.

The loss may prove inconsequential for Choi Kang-Hee, but for a head coach trying to gauge his team ahead of the March re-start of World Cup qualifying, the embarrassment will need some processing. Croatia is better than any team Korea will face over qualifying’s last four matches, but after such a lopsided neutral site result, Choi has a decision to make. Is this a one-off — the type of atypical performance from which you can’t make any assumptions — or is it a sign that a team who qualified for the second round of 2010’s World Cup is losing ground on the rest of the world?

Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic put the Croats up in the 33rd minute after heading home a cross from defender Ivan Strinic. Captain Darijo Srna made the lead two just before halftime, and substitute Nikica Jelavic added a third 12 minutes into the second half. Jelavic then assisted on the final goal, an 85th minute tally from Fulham’s Mladen Petric.

With three of their last four qualifiers at home, there’s little chance Korea will miss Brazil 2014. They’re one point behind Uzbekistan in AFC’s Group 1 and have both a match in hand an a home date with the Uzbeks. But for a team with South Korea’s recent accomplishments, World Cup Qualifying should be a given. Results like today’s, however, provide a hint the team’s failing to gain ground on their global competition. How big a hint will depend on how well the team responds to Wednesday’s shock.

source: Getty ImagesLike Korea, Japan’s main challenges lie outside the Asian reason, though none of those obstacles were present in Kobe on Wednesday. Instead, European minnows Latvia were convinced to make the long trip East, allowing the Samurai Blue a home date during the short international break. Not surprisingly, the result was a lopsided score, one that could have been even more one-sided.

The result put all of Japan’s weapons on display, starting with Shinji Okazaki. The Stuttgart striker scored twice including the opener in the 41st minute, an effort that prolonged the form that’s made him the joint-top scorer in Asian qualifying. Sandwiched between Okazaki’s double was Keisuke Honda’s 13th international goal, the CSKA attacker finishing after a pass from Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa.

The trio is part of a Japanese team that’s developed enough talent to have a puncher’s chance against anybody in the world, and unlike their South Korean rivals, they’re building toward Brazil 2014. Returning to Asian qualifying, the Koreans need to regain their feet, while the Japanese will look to widen the gap.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Matchweek 27

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:10 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Find out who made the cut as one of the top performers of Round 27 in the Premier League.

  2. Thierry Henry on Chelsea: “They live to defend”

    Mar 1, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Soccer - Capital One Cup - Final - Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Wembley Stadium AP

    One of the greatest strikers of all-time says it all starts on defense, something Chelsea proved today in their Capital One triumph.

  3. VIDEO: Premier League Goals of the Week — Round 27

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:09 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    It’s a battle between Liverpool super-strikes for best goal of the week in the Premier League.

  4. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Draws for Real, Atletico; Salah shines for Fiorentina

    Mar 1, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.

  5. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week — Round 27

    Mar 1, 2015, 7:17 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Two goals silenced the critics and got this Manchester man named Premier League Player of the Week.

  6. Sunderland to appeal Wes Brown red card as officiating blunders continue

    Mar 1, 2015, 6:33 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Wes Brown was sent off in the Black Cats’ loss to Manchester United, despite the fact that John O’Shea seemingly committed the foul.

  7. WATCH: Wenger hails Arsenal’s “mentally determined performance”

    Mar 1, 2015, 5:46 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Coming off of an ugly midweek loss to Monaco, Arsenal responded perfectly with a 2-0 win over Everton.

  8. Stephen Ireland sidelined after vicious challenge from Maynor Figueroa

    Mar 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The Stoke City midfielder needed 12-15 stitches in his calf after taking a challenge that manager Mark Hughes said could have ended his career.

  9. Louis van Gaal says Angel di Maria is low on confidence

    Mar 1, 2015, 4:10 PM EST

    Soccer 2015: Manchester United vs. Burnley FEB 11 AP

    The Argentinian winger was subbed out at halftime of Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Sunderland.

  10. Jose Mourinho praises deputizing Kurt Zouma in League Cup win

    Mar 1, 2015, 3:20 PM EST

    Zouma AP

    Playing in front of the back four due to Nemanja Matic’s absence, the 20-year-old French defender stood out to his boss.

  11. Bas Dost, with two more goals today, is eating the Bundesliga alive

    Mar 1, 2015, 2:33 PM EST

    Dost Getty Images

    He score two more goals, continuing the ridiculous stretch for Europe’s most in-form striker.

  12. VIDEO: Fabian Johnson scores as Gladbach bounces back to win

    Mar 1, 2015, 1:52 PM EST

    Johnson AP

    The USMNT regular scored his first club goal in over two years as Borussia Monchengladbach bounced back from a midweek Europa League disappointment.

  13. VIDEO: Rodgers says Liverpool still very much in play for Top 4

    Mar 1, 2015, 1:12 PM EST

    Rodgers Getty Images

    The Liverpool manager was full of praise for his team after their high-energy performance against the defending champions.

  14. Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Mourinho’s boys win League Cup trophy

    Mar 1, 2015, 12:54 PM EST

    Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Capital One Cup Final Getty Images

    Mourinho wins first trophy of his second spell in charge of Chelsea.

  15. FOLLOW LIVE – Chelsea lead Tottenham at the break in League Cup final

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:50 AM EST

    FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-TOTTENHAM FBL-ENG-LCUP-CHELSEA-TOTTENHAM

    Chelsea have the upper hand, but can they see off Spurs at Wembley? Follow play-by-play, here.

  16. VIDEO: Pellegrini bemoans giveaways, “beautiful goals” in Liverpool loss

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:48 AM EST

    Pellegrini Getty Images

    The Manchester City boss gave props to Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho, but threw his own players under the bus for not being able to hold onto the ball.

  17. Watch Live: Documentary showcasing Arsenal’s “Invincibles”

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Arsenal

    From 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, watch the “Invincibles” documentary live online.

  18. Arsenal 2-0 Everton: Giroud, Rosicky down toothless Toffees

    Mar 1, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Giroud Getty Images

    Olivier Giroud atoned for his misses midweek with the game’s only goal as Everton had little to offer.

  19. Three things we learned from Liverpool’s win vs. Manchester City

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:15 AM EST

    Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    The Reds put in a stunning display, as City stumble yet again.

  20. VIDEO: Coutinho curler gives Manchester City nightmares again

    Mar 1, 2015, 9:01 AM EST

    Coutinho Getty Images

    Copycat! A repeat of Jordan Henderson’s earlier strike saw the Brazilian down Manchester City late again, reminiscent of last year’s match.