What happened to ‘the Asian giants’ in the second round of qualifiers for the 2010 South Africa World Cup? You know what they say. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
The Iraqi national team, the reigning Asian champions, lost 2-0 to Qatar in Doha. This match complicated Iraqi plans to qualify in the fourth round. The chances of an easy victory decrease with each round. A tie with China in the United Arab Emirates followed by this loss in the second round, means that the Iraqi team has missed five out of six possible points.
Among the other surprises in this round was the resounding defeat suffered by Saudi Arabia, the runner-up of the Asian Championship. Playing in Group Four, they traveled to Tashkent, only to lose to Uzbekistan by three goals. The Saudi team still stands a good chance of qualifying, though, as it holds three points from its previous victory over Singapore in Riyadh.
Japan, who finished fourth in the Asian Championship, lost to Bahrain in Manama with a final score of 1-0. Both teams play in Group Two. The Japanese team is in the same position as Saudi Arabia; they retain a good shot at qualifying.
South Korea, the Asian Championship’s third place finisher, may have stumbled less severely, tying 0-0 with North Korea, in a game played in Shanghai, China. The game was considered a home game for North Korea. It was moved to China by order of FIFA, after North Korean authorities refused to play the South Korean national anthem in Pyongyang.
South Korea continues to lead Group Three, despite this tie, which may have served to benefit North Korea, given the difference in the standard of play between the two teams. South Korea is called the ''Dean of Asian Football,'' as it is the Asian team that has been to the most World Cups.
In the wake of these results, the competition to qualify in the next round of qualifiers is going to heat up. Sports fans zealously await the final results.