SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For many Asian players the dream move to football's big leagues in Europe has not been all they hoped for and could even damage their chances of appearing at the World Cup this June.
Japan playmaker Shinji Kagawa has started just seven of Manchester United's 21 league games so far this season, but at least he can expect to be in the starting lineup for Japan's opening World Cup match against Ivory Coast on June 14.
Others are not so sure.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has warned his players they need to be active for their clubs to boost their chances of going to Brazil. That makes the current January transfer window — the last chance to move this season — a vital one.
Socceroo captain Lucas Neill is without a team after his contract in Japan with Omiya Ardija ended in December. Young talent Tom Rogic is struggling to make the starting eleven in Scotland with Celtic and has been linked with a loan move to Japan or back to the A-League in a bid to get some playing time.
"I really need players playing and fit around selection time," Postecoglou said media earlier this month. "For Lucas and others in the group, there are some pretty big decisions to come.As long as they're playing regularly and playing well, they give themselves the chance to be selected."
There is also an issue with goalkeepers. There are Australian stoppers at big clubs, but Liverpool's Brad Jones and Mitch Langerak at Borussia Dortmund have played just two league games between them this season. That leaves Mat Ryan, ever present at Club Brugge this season, in the driver's seat.
Another Asian star in serious danger of missing out on what would be his third World Cup is Park Chu-young, who has played just seven minutes of Premier League action since joining Arsenal in August 2011.
The South Korean striker was loaned out to Spain's Celta Vigo for much of the 2012-13 season but returned to London and inactivity in May. Despite links to France and second tier clubs in England last summer, he has remained in North London and made just one appearance this season in the final minutes of a League Cup game.
At the time of his surprise move to Arsenal from Monaco, the 28 year-old was Korea's top striker, but he last started a game for his country in October 2012. Since taking over as head coach of the South Korea in July, Hong Myong-bo has made it clear that if Park does not play competitive games he runs the risk of not being selected for Brazil.