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

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Hours before Japan and South Korea suffered agonizing second-round exits from the World Cup in Qatar, soccer’s continental rivals Saudi Arabia had a lot to celebrate.

The All India Football Federation announced the decision to withdraw from the race to host the 2027 Asian Cup, while all football activities in East Asia focused on the knockout matches between Japan and South Korea on Monday, making Saudi Arabia the only candidate to host the Asian Cup. continental championship.

South Korea, who lost 4-1 to Brazil, and Japan, who were beaten by Croatia on penalties, are more advanced in the World Cup than Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Off the field, however, the force in Asian football has moved towards the western side of the continent.

Saudi Arabia is set to be officially confirmed to host the 2027 tournament in February when the Asian Football Confederation meets in Bahrain. It will be the first time the country has staged the continental competition and could also lead to a future World Cup bid.

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“People forget that Saudi Arabia 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 Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation, told local media. He added that the 2027 Asian Cup will be one of the most successful Asian tournaments due to the ability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to host sporting events and this will show that the country will be able to host the World Cup in the coming years.

While teams from East Asia have traditionally performed better at soccer’s preeminent tournament – South Korea’s run to the World Cup semi-finals when they co-hosted the 2002 tournament with Japan remains the best performance for an Asian team – West Asia has maintained great strides in running this Sports.

The UAE hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, and Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa is set to be appointed president of the Asian Football Confederation for a third term in February. Qatar overcame a challenge from South Korea in October to host the 2023 Asian Cup, using facilities built for the World Cup.

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The KFA responded to this decision in October with a statement highlighting some of the pressure in Qatar.

Qatar promised huge financial support, such as the participation of additional sponsors by its own companies in the Asian Football Confederation, which is currently suffering a loss due to the Corona virus, a large-scale broadcast rights contract with its broadcasting company, and support for the expenses of operating the Asian Cup. ‘.

Saudi Arabia has not hosted the Asian Cup finals, which it has won three times since its inauguration in 1956, and the last title was in 1996.

Hosting the 2027 edition was a great contest when the Saudis, Qatar, Iran, India and Uzbekistan initially submitted bids over two years ago.

The Indian Football Association has said that the 2027 Asian Cup does not fit in with its strategic priorities.

“India has always been an outstanding and efficient host to major tournaments, which was clearly demonstrated by the recently concluded FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup,” said Kalyan Choubey, FIFA President, in a statement. “However, the Executive Committee has decided that for the time being the overall strategy of the Federation remains focused on the core objectives of promoting our football at every level from grassroots to youth development.”

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Qatar, the host nation of the World Cup, was awarded the 2023 edition of the Asian Cup after China returned the hosting rights, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That tournament is expected to be postponed to January 2024.

The KFA said in October that it would take time to reflect on its failure to win the Asian Cup, saying it would “conduct more research and practice on measures to enhance international competitiveness and football diplomacy in the future”.

But in the short term, when Japan and South Korea leave Doha, they know they will be back soon.

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports



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