DOHA, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- After a week of competitions, hopes are high for Asian football at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The tournament could not have got off to a worse start for Asian sides, as the hosts Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador, Iran were thrashed 6-2 by England, and Australia (who play in the Asian qualifying group) lost heavily 4-1 to France.
Qatar failed to survive Group A on Friday with a 3-1 loss to Senegal and became the first hosts to exit the World Cup in the group stage since South Africa 2010.
The Saudi Arabians produced a display full of running, tactical discipline and plenty of skill, and adapted to the midday heat better than their rivals and were cheered on by around 25,000 fans who had crossed into Qatar. They laid down the marker for others to follow.
Japan picked up the baton and sprang another huge surprise as they too came back from a goal down to beat Germany 2-1.
South Korea then claimed a very creditable 0-0 draw against a powerful Uruguay to also give themselves a decent chance of making the last 16.
Eight of the South Korean players play in Europe, such as Son Heung-min, Lee Kang-in, Hwan Hee-chan and Lee Jae-sung, while South Korea's K-League is one of the toughest domestic competitions in Asia, along with Saudi Arabia.
And then Iran bounced back, showing incredible personality to beat Wales 2-0 on Friday with two late goals. The win was a credit to the courage of the Iran side, who have been under difficult circumstances in Qatar, and coach Carlos Queiroz, who has clearly formed a united group of players.
Once again, the fans played their part, creating an excellent atmosphere in Al Rayyan: it felt like 'proper football' again.
"Today we re-found our soul," said Queiroz after the game and Asian sides have very much found their feet. Now the question is: How far can they go?