So, I was back on schedule, and then...yeah.
We hereby return to our summaries and catch-up of notable (and not-so notable) tournaments starting with the first federation cup of the new cycle: the AFC Asian Cup
On: Tim Cahill (Soccer Legend)
Tim Cahill is to Australlian soccer what Bronco Nagurski is to American football.
That is all.
Off: Australian Fans (Geopolitical Novices)
I'm all for hospitality, but Australian fans took it to a new level expressing their affection for North Korea. The Red Robot wasn't too likely to have a lot of fans in the stands, but that's as much for it's systemic disadvantaging of citizens as it is due to the country's small population. Cheer how you want to Aussies...but just remember that one man's satire is a nut job despot's eternal devotion.
On: South Korea
The Taeguk Warriors are certainly disappointed to have been forced to settle for a fourth silver medal since their last trophy in 1960. (Their four bronzes over the same time don't help either). But set aside the final standings and you can see a dominant squad that only trailed for 45 minutes (the second half of the final) and still managed a stunning equalizer in stoppage time. The resilient South Koreans are certainly worthy of a trophy, and I have every confidence they'll be gunning for one sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, Korea's primary rival, Japan's Blue Samurai, were underwhelming, topping a middling Group D before being on the back foot for 74 minutes against the United Arab Emirates en route to their eventual ouster in the quarterfinals. Combine this lackluster showing with the fuzzy and unfocused runs in Brazil both last summer and the year before (at the Confederations' Cup) and Japan doesn't look terribly well prepared for the future.
On: Asia's "Perceived" Third Tier (Uzbekistan/UAE/China/Iraq)
Recent form suggested that China and Iraq had no shot at the second round and that the UAE and Uzbekistan were too unknown to thrive in a bigger tournament. At the end of the tournament Iraq and the UAE finished 3rd & 4th, while China and Uzbekistan topped a group featuring more recent World Cup qualifiers (North Korea/Saudi Arabia).
Off: Asia's "Perceived" Second Tier (Saudi Arabia/Oman/Jordan/Qatar)
The Saudi's remain Asia's most baffling squad, with a fine pedigree and minimal results. The other gulf states with rising standards and results (Oman, Jordan and Qatar)looked totally underwhelming en route to their own early exits. And while none conceded as many goals as debutants Palestine, their standards aren't to compete against Palestine...it's to compete against the other top teams in Asia.