Like in other parts of the world, football is hugely popular in Asia — the most populous continent on earth.
In the last few decades, the popularity of the round-leather game has soared in Asia, with interest in soccer peaking like never seen before.
Countries in the region are investing more in football which has seen their various leagues attract more foreign players and become much more competitive.
Clubs from other parts of the world (especially from Europe) mostly hold their pre-season preparation/tournaments in Asia.
Moreso, Asia hosted various international and club football events in recent years. It hosted its first-ever FIFA World Cup in 2002 (South Korea/Japan), and the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by Qatar.
The biggest international continental tournament in Asia is the AFC Asian Cup.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is the highest football regulatory body in Asia.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 national football teams in Asia.
1. South Korea
South Korea is the most successful national football team in Asia. It has appeared at the FIFA World Cup 10 times (the most by any Asian country) and 9 consecutive times.
South Korea achieved Asia’s highest finish ever at the World Cup when it reached the semi-finals in 2002 on home soil when it co-hosted it with Japan. South Korean is also home to some of the most successful football clubs in Asia.
South Korea have won the AFC Asian Cup twice (1956 and 1960) — the first two editions of the tournament.
Some of the best players to have ever represented South Korea are Heung-min Son, Ji-Sung Park, Cha Bum-Kun, and Hong Myung-bo.
Japan have won the AFC Asian Cup a record four times (1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011). The country has appeared at the FIFA World Cup 7 times.
Japan is one of the only three Asian countries to have reached the FIFA Confederations Cup final, doing so in 2001.
The J-league, which is the top flight in Japan, is one of the best, most attractive, and competitive in Asia. Players from the top football clubs in Japan have gone in to play in the big European leagues
Some of the best players to have played for Japan are: Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo, Kunishige Kamamoto, and Shunsuke Nakamura.
The current Japan national team boasts of some fine players who are playing in top European leagues. They are: Takumi Minamino, Shinji Kagawa, Yoshida Maya, Shinji Okazaki and Takefusa Kubo.
Iran have won the AFC Asian Cup three times (1968, 1972, and 1976) — the first and only country to win it 3 consecutive times.
It topped the Asian national team ranking for a record 4 years (2014-2018).
Iran has played at FIFA World Cup 6 times.
Some of the best players to have ever played for Iran are Javad Nekouanam, Ali Karimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, and Ali Daei — who was the world’s top international goalscorer with 109 goals until his record was broken by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2021.
4. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia have won the AFC Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988, and 1996). It has also won the Arab Cup twice.
Saudi Arabia has appeared at the FIFA World Cup 6 times. It was the first-ever Asian country to reach the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1992.
Some of Saudi’s all-time best players are Mohamed Al-Deayea, Majed Abdullah, Sami Al-Jaber, and Yasser Al-Qahtani.
Although Australia is located in the Oceania continent, it switched from the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006 and now competes has an Asian country.
Australia has appeared at the FIFA World Cup five times. It reached the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1997.
Australia is the only national team in football history to have been a champion of two confederations, having won the OFC Nations Cup four times between 1980 and 2004, as well as the AFC Asian Cup at the 2015 event on home soil.
Australia currently holds the world record for the largest win and the most goals scored by a single player in an international match. Both records were achieved during the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification match against American Samoa on 11 April 2001. Australia won 31–0, with Archie Thompson scoring 13 goals and David Zdrilic scoring 8.
Two days before the 31–0 win, Australia had broken the record for the largest win with a 22–0 win over Tonga. With 13 and 8 goals respectively, both Thompson and Zdrilic broke the previous record jointly held by another Australian, Gary Cole, who scored seven goals against Fiji in 1981, and Iranian Karim Bagheri, who also scored seven goals against Maldives in 1997.
Some of the best players to have ever played for Australia are Tim Cahill, Mark Schwarzer, Mile Jedinak, and Archie Thompson.
Qatar won the last AFC Asian Cup tournament in 2019, the country’s first-ever.
Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and therefore qualify automatically for what will be their first-ever appearance at the tournament. This will also be the first time that an Arab nation will host the competition.
Some of Qatar’s best-ever players are Hassan Al-Haydos, AbdelKarim Hassan, Mubarak Mustafa, and Almoez Ali.
Kuwait won the AFC Asian Cup in 1980 as hosts and have qualified for the FIFA World Cup once (in 1982).
Kuwait’s 20–0 win over Bhutan in 2000 was at the time the biggest ever victory in international football. It was surpassed in 2001 when Australia beat American Samoa 31–0.
While Kuwait was one of Asia’s major football force from the 1970s to the 2000s, the strength of the national team started fading slowly from the 2010s, with the country failing in two consecutive Asian Cups in 2011 and 2015 before being disqualified for the 2019 edition.
The team has also failed to reach any World Cup since its first appearance in 1982.
Some of the best players to have ever played for Kuwait are Bader Al-Mutawa, Waleed Ali, Bashar Abdullah, and Jassem Al-Houwaidi.
Iraq won the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 and have won the Arab Cup 4 times.
Iraq have qualified for the FIFA World Cup once, doing so in 1986.
Some of Iraq’s best-ever players are Younis Mahmoud, Alaa Abdul Zahra, Hussein Saeed, and Ahmad Radhi.
China was runner-up at the AFC Asian Cup in 1984 and 2004 and made its sole FIFA World Cup appearance in 2002, losing all matches without scoring a goal and crashing out at the group stages.
Some of China best ever players are: Li Weifeng, Gao lin, Hao Haidang, Yang Xu and Wu Lei. The top football clubs in China have attracted European football stars in recent years.
10. The United Arab Emirates
UAE has made only one FIFA World Cup appearance, doing so in Italia 1990, where it lost all three of its games.
It took fourth place at the 1992 AFC Asian Cup and finished as runners-up in 1996 (as host). It finished third in 2015 and hosted the 2019 edition, where it reached the semi-finals.
The United Arab Emirates won the Arabian Gulf Cup in 2007 and 2013.
Some of UAE’s best-ever players are Adnan Al Talyani, Ismail Matar, Ali Mabkhout, and Ahmed Khalil.