The FIFA World Cup is the premier football competition in the world, and it is every player’s dream to play there. The World Cup has produced some of the most memorable moments in football history.
From South Korea’s stunning run to the 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finals on home soil to Saudi Arabia’s stunning win over Belgium at the 1994 World Cup, Asia has a proud history at the FIFA World Cup.
The continent has produced a selection of world-class footballing players over the years who have graced the round-leather game in Asia and the world at large.
Here, we look at Asia’s best players at the FIFA World Cup.
1. Ji-Sung Park
A 21-year-old J.S. Park came to the limelight at the 2002 World Cup hosted by his country, South Korea. Due to his versatility, he was deployed as a winger, and he excelled due to his relentless energy.
In the last group match against Portugal, the game was 0–0 until the 70th minute, following two red cards against the Portuguese. Then Park scored the match-winner, controlling the ball with his chest and beating Sérgio Conceição before volleying it through the legs of Portugal goalkeeper Vítor Baía and into the net with his left foot!
The goal eliminated Portugal and sent Korea through to the knockout stage for the first time in their history. They would go on to reach the semifinals.
Park also scored a penalty in the penalty shootout victory over Spain in the quarterfinals.
Ji-Sung Park will later score at the 2006 and 2010 editions. In his three appearances at the FIFA World Cup, he was named Man Of The Match four times — the most by any Asian player in history.
2. Tim Cahill
Cahill is renowned for his sensational long-range volleys, both in the English Premier League and on the international stage.
He scored Australia’s first-ever goal at FIFA World Cup in 2006 with an amazing strike to level the match. He went on to score the winner moments later to hand Australia their first victory at the World Cup.
It was at the 2014 World Cup against Netherlands that Cahill scored one of the best goals in World Cup history with an absolutely audacious and stunning long-range volley.
Tim Cahill played at the FIFA World Cup 4 times and scored 5 goals.
3. Saeed Owairan
Saudi Arabia qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 1994, and Saeed Owairan announced himself to the world.
In the last group game against Belgium, Saudi needed a goal to advance, and the Belgians were defending resolutely.
Then Owairan stepped up with a moment of magic as he scored a stunning individual goal against Belgium. The goal sent Saudi Arabia through to the second round of the World Cup, a feat which they have yet to repeat.
The goal was later voted as the 6th best in FIFA’s Goal of the Century rankings.
4. Hong Myung-Bo
Myung-Bo is the all-time record appearance maker for South Korea. He was an intelligent ball-reading centre-back with impressive elegance when he is on the ball.
Myung-Bo appeared at four World Cup tournaments. His most memorable outing was on home soil in 2002, which South Korea co-hosted with Japan.
As the captain, he led the team to a shocking semi-final finish. And despite being a defender, Myung-Bo won the Bronze Ball as the third Best Player of the Tournament — the first and only Asian to do so.
5. Heung-min Son
Despite still being active, Son is already a South Korean legend. He has appeared at 2 World Cup tournaments so far, scoring 3 goals — making South Korea’s joint top scorer at the FIFA World Cup with Park Ji-sung and Ahn Jung-hwan.
His most memorable goal came in 2018 against defending champions Germany. Korea had lost their first two games and needed to win against Germany by at least 2 goals. An almost impossible task.
Korea couldn’t score until the 92nd minute. The goal prompted the Germans to go out all-offensive. Their famous sweeper goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, started venturing forward.
In the 97th minute, a Korean player won the ball off Neuer (who had been at the other end of the pitch in order to join the German attack, thus leaving the goal undefended) and hit a long ball to Son, who ran onto the ball and tapped into an empty net from close range to score the second goal which sent the Koreans through and eliminated the defending champions.
The goal was one of the most iconic goals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
- Sami Al Jaber
- Keisuke Honda
- Ali Daei
- Mehdi Mahdavikia