Politics overshadows on-field progress in Asia
While China still struggles to produce players to export to Europe, the trade in Japanese and Korean players continues to rise. One of the biggest transfers of the year saw Japan international Shinji Kagawa leave German champion Borussia Dortmund to sign for Manchester United in June. In July, Korea's Park Ji-sung left United after seven seasons to join big-spending but poorly-performing Queens Park Rangers.
Japan and South Korea also impressed in the 2012 Olympics. Japan defeated highly-rated Spain and Korea eliminated host nation Great Britain. In the play-off for bronze, Korea defeated its neighbor 2-0.
"Some Asian teams are moving ahead as football is now about efficiency, accuracy, speed and unity and not judo or rugby as in some nations," Troussier said. "I sincerely think that Japan can win a World Cup."
Korea also tasted success on the club front as Ulsan Horangi became the third K-League team in four years to win the Asian Champions League, defeating Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia 3-0. Al Kuwait lifted the second-tier AFC Cup.
The major focus for the coming year will be qualification for the 2014 World Cup. With the final round of qualifiers just past the halfway stage for most of the ten teams, Japan is eight points clear at the top of Group B and very close to confirming its participation in a fifth successive tournament.
Australia, whose domestic scene was energized by Sydney FC's signing of Alessandro Del Piero ahead of the 2012/2013 A-League season, started slowly but is on course for Group B's second automatic qualification spot. In Group A, two of South Korea, Iran and Uzbekistan are expected to head to Brazil.
The early months of 2013 will be dominated by the election for the new president of the AFC, likely to be held in April 2013. Chinese official Zhang Jilong has been the acting president in bin Hammam's absence since May 2011 but is to face stiff challenges from colleagues, including vice-president Al-Serkal.
"I am confident that I can lead the group and the AFC in an effective way," Al-Serkal said. "Because of my experience in various committees since 1991, I have the experience to do so. I am well-known in Asia and can bring the AFC together."
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