Same Same But Different’s All-Time Asian World Cup XI

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

“Same Same But Different: Your Asian Football Show” brings to you our All-Time Asian XI in the history of the FIFA World Cup.

Since the inaugural edition of the FIFA World Cup in 1930, 12 members of the Asian Football Confederation have competed on the biggest stage in world football.

Indonesia – then known as the Dutch East Indies – were the first to partake in 1938, DPR Korea had a memorable run in 1966, while Korea Republic’s fourth-place finish in 2002 remains the best performance by an Asian side.

Along the way, many players hailing from the continent have used the World Cup as a platform to write their names into footballing folklore.

Although it is by no means an easy task, here is Same Same But Different: Your Asian Football Show’s All-Time Asian World Cup XI.

Goalkeeper: Lee Won-jae (Korea Republic)

Sure, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Mohamed Al-Deayea are both legends of Asian football in their own right, but could it be ever have been anyone other than Lee Won-jae?

Probably not after his penalty shootout heroics in 2002, denying Joaquin to help the South Koreans claim a memorable quarter-final triumph over mighty Spain.

Lee should also be recognised for his longevity having featured at four World Cups, starting from USA 1994 and finishing up in South Africa 2010.

Defender: Lucas Neill (Australia)

Lucas Neill was involved in the controversial moment at the 2006 World Cup when he was adjudged to have fouled Fabio Grosso deep in injury-time, which led to Italy netting a 95th-minute winner against Australia in the Round of 16.

Nonetheless, that incident aside, Neill was a reliable and consistent performer for the Socceroos in their World Cup campaigns, captaining them in both 2010 and 2014.

Defender: Hong Myung-bo (Korea Republic)

The first Asian player to play in four consecutive World Cups, named by Pele in his 125 greatest living footballers… Hong Myung-bo had no shortage of accolades throughout a glittering career.

His finest hour, however, came in 2002 when – as a 33-year-old – he captained Korea Republic in their stunning run to the semi-finals on home soil.

At the end of the tournament, Hong was awarded the Bronze Ball as the third-best player of that tournament, and finished his career with 136 caps for the Taegeuk Warriors.

Defender: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Japan)

Despite the strides Japan have made since their World Cup debut in 1998, the Round of 16 remains the furthest they have reached – which they first achieved in 2002.

On that occasion, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto had to settle for a substitute appearance in their opening 2-2 draw with Belgium, but was installed in the starting XI thereafter and captained the Samurai Blue to victories over Russia and Tunisia.

Japan’s run would eventually come to an end at the hands of Turkey, but Miyamoto would go on to lead them again in Germany four years on.

Right midfield: Mehdi Mahdavikia (Iran)

Iranian football has had no problems producing legendary names, with Ali Daei, Javad Nekounam, Ali Karimi and Andranik Teymourian just some of their stars over the years.

However, the one who arguably had the greatest impact on the world’s biggest stage was Mehdi Mahdavikia, from the time he starred at France 1998 as a 20-year-old.

His displays saw him earn a move to Germany and he went on to win 110 caps to be the fifth most-capped player in Team Melli’s history.

Centre midfield: Yoo Sang-chul (Korea Republic)

Yoo Sang-chul may not be a name that immediately rings a bell, but the fact that he was the only South Korean – apart from Hong – to be named in the 2002 World Cup All Star Team speaks volumes.

Along with Kim Nam-il, Yoo did plenty of the dirty work in the engine room but was also instrumental in initiating attacks for the Taegeuk Warriors.

His determined and efficient displays were symbolic of the spirit that famed Korea Republic side displayed under Guus Hiddink.

Centre midfield: Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)

At the end of the day, there were a host of Japanese schemers that could have been a shoo-in.

Yet, considering he was the pioneer that paved the way for the likes of Junichi Inamoto and Shinji Ono, it proved impossible to overlook Hidetoshi Nakata.

With his shocking head of dyed hair, it did not take long for the Kofu native to get the attention – first for his appearance and then for his undoubted talent.

Nakata would enjoy an outstanding career which saw him win Serie A with Roma, as well as starring for the Samurai Blue at three consecutive World Cups.

Left midfield: Park Ji-sung (Korea Republic)

By no means the most naturally-gifted player, Park Ji-sung deserves even more credit for making a career for himself through sheer grit and hard work.

His club career with Manchester United may be impossible to top but Park never had any lack of pride representing his country.

He also scored in all three of the World Cups he appeared in and the list of countries he scored against – Portugal, France and Greece – makes for pretty good reading.

Attacking midfield: Keisuke Honda (Japan)

One of two players in our XI that will be playing in Russia 2018, Keisuke Honda’s impact over the course of 90 minutes may have waned as he embark on his 32nd year.

Still, at his peak, Honda was a genuine world-class attacker capable of winning a game for his team with one individual moment of magic.

His debut World Cup in 2010 saw him score against both Cameroon and Denmark, while he was a rare bright spark in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Japanese four years later.

Striker: Tim Cahill (Australia)

Granted, Australia are yet to make their final 23-man cut for their 2018 World Cup squad, but could there be any chance the evergreen Tim Cahill is omitted?

Having played and scored at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, the 38-year-old has proven a real handful even for the best defences around the globe.

And, while his illustrious career is slowly but surely winding to a halt, Russia 2018 could just see Cahill have one final hurrah.

Striker: Sami Al-Jaber (Saudi Arabia)

In what was their debut appearance at the 1994 World Cup, it initially looked as though Saudi Arabia would be out of their depth as they were beaten 2-1 by Netherlands in their opening match.

However, victories over Morocco and Belgium – and a place in the knockout round – followed, although they did not go any further as they were beaten by Sweden.

Sami Al-Jaber was one of those who were on target for the Green Falcons in USA and, after also netting at France 1998, his third and final World Cup goal would come 12 years after his first – against Tunisia at Germany 2006.

Did we miss out any of YOUR Asian World Cup heroes? Ali Daei? Junichi Inamoto? Ahn Jung-hwan? Let us know below!

Comments