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With South Korea's loss, Asia out of World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm •  Published: June 26, 2014
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By contrast, three of the four qualifiers from North and Central America advanced to the second stage and, for the first time, two African teams reached the knockout stages.

Australia had some good moments against some stronger opponents but ultimately lost all three games to Chile, the Netherlands and Spain. Iran had a 0-0 draw with Nigeria and managed to hold and occasionally threaten Argentina for 90 minutes, only to lose 1-0 to an injury-time goal by Lionel Messi. The Iranians, heavily criticized for a defensive system, then dropped their last game 3-1 to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Japan lost 2-1 to the Ivory Coast, after taking a first-half lead, and then was held 0-0 by 10-man Greece before being destroyed 4-1 by Columbia. Japan and Iran are already looking for new coaches.

South Korea was lucky to get its single point as well, thanks to Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's blunder in the opener when he let a routine save from a shot of about 30 yards slip through his grasp. South Korea couldn't hold the lead, though, and finished with a 1-1 draw. Next they were soundly beaten by Algeria 4-2 before dropping the finale to Belgium.

Its lone bright spot Thursday was the play of Sunderland midfielder Ki Sung-yeung, who had several quality shots including one long-distance drive that forced Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a great diving save.

After the game he said his nation, and continent, still had a lot of work to do to catch up with the established World Cup heavyweights from Europe and South America.

"We need to try more to be a better team and we have to be realistic. We are not better than the Europeans or South America or whatever," he said. "We need to improve ourselves more and this shows that we are not better than them."

Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said the Asian teams were young on average "so they can only get better."

"Asia must acknowledge its shortcomings, but at the same time we must believe in our own ability," he said in a statement. "We must bring our game to the next level and there is no time to wait.

"Football will not slow down and nor will the rest of the world. Our brand new initiatives are planned with progress in mind."

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Follow Heller on Twitter @aronhellerap