Asia should be more than happy with its allocation of four direct spots in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
14 Jul 2013 - 11:06 AM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2014 - 4:59 PM

It is very hard to comprehend the logic behind claims that Asia should have a greater representation at the FIFA World Cup at the expense of Europe.

If anything, South America is the confederation that has every reason to feel aggrieved by its allocation of only four guaranteed spots, plus that of host Brazil, in 2014.

Four direct spots for Asia more than adequately represents the merits of a region that is relatively still in the wilderness of the world game.

Europe, which has provided seven semi-finalists in the last two World Cups, will have 13 guaranteed spots in Brazil.

I disagree with TWG colleague Scott McIntyre's appraisal of Asia's so-called giant strides forward and the suggestion that its World Cup allocation should be increased.

The bottom line is that, notwithstanding its obvious growth, Asian football is still not as strong and appealing as that of the middle-range European nations, let alone the cream.

Take away the top four or five nations in Asia and there is not much to get too excited about.

The thrust of McIntyre's argument is three-fold: the rise in quality of players from Asia's top countries, the overall advances across the board in Asia and the excessive number of finals spots given to Europe.

As justification for a better and more equitable share of the World Cup pie, it was pointed out that countries like Japan, Korea Republic and Australia are now producing players capable of playing for some of the giants of the club game.

I'd like to know what Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland, Turkey, Croatia, Poland, the Czech Republic and others have been doing for decades.

The United Arab Emirates is a prime example of Asia's renewed vigour, it also was claimed.

It now has a vibrant professional league, yet this weekly spectacle is witnessed by an average of 3000 (presumably paying) fans.

Uzbekistan is experiencing sustained growth at youth level, too.

But its senior team continues to wallow in mediocrity and is struggling to leave its mark on the Asian front let alone that of the world.

There is also plenty of money in China now, it was claimed.

But it's all going to foreign stars seeking the last pay packet of their careers and the national team is still seen as third rate at best.

It was suggested that, based on recent results, rewarding eight European qualifying group runners-up with an intra-continental playoff opportunity was simply wrong.

What was conveniently overlooked was the fact that European football is the strongest in the world and the nerve centre of the game (sorry, South America, but facts are facts).

Limiting Europe's participation in a World Cup to nine group winners is ludicrous because the continent has many formidable sides, 10 of which conceivably capable of winning the World Cup.

Teams like France, Germany, Portugal, England and Russia, which at times have finished second in qualifying groups and have had to negotiate a playoff to reach the finals would probably be strong enough to win the bloody thing on their day.

If we're arguing that qualifying group runners-up in Europe should not get another chance at redemption, it is only fair that this logic applies to Asia, where Australia has qualified by finishing second to Japan and two third-placed teams can still reach the finals in Brazil.

Asian football is developing nicely and smartly at national and club level but only the most one-eyed observers would rate it on a par with middle Europe.

Advocates for Asian football would argue that Asia represents 60 per cent of the world's population so it deserves more than a measly four spots in a 32-team World Cup.

The World Cup is not a democracy or anything like that where people numbers hold sway.

The tournament is a showpiece of the world game between the strongest teams that is designed to take the game to the world.

It should be pointed out that most football fans around the world would rather watch ordinary teams like Hungary or Bulgaria 'that would not strike fear into Asia" than a leading team from the AFC which has yet to make opponents tremble in their boots, as far as I know.

I would not go as far as to say that the World Cup should be an elite contest for the top 32-ranked teams on the planet because that would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.

But Asia should know its place in the game's hierarchy and concentrate on its admirable efforts to raise overall standards before making noises about its level of participation.

Asia should be happy with its four guaranteed spots and an opportunity for a fifth team through a playoff.

For goodness sake, Asia has as many guaranteed qualifying spots in 2014 as South America.

The Asian Football Confederation, to its credit, has been working tirelessly and successfully to raise the playing and organisational levels across a vast continent despite massive problems that transcend sport.

It was more than justified in coming up with the slogan 'The future is Asia' a few years ago.

Asia's moment may well come and Australian football would be all the better for it but we have not reached that point in time yet.

Asia's journey towards global recognition and respect has begun but it still has a long way to go.

FIFA's allocation for 2014 World Cup

UEFA: 13
CAF: 5
CONMEBOL: 4 plus playoff versus Jordan/Uzbekistan
AFC: 4 plus playoff versus South American team

CONCACAF: 3 plus playoff versus New Zealand

OFC: Playoff versus North, Central American and Caribbean team