With the 2022 edition of the FIFA World Cup concluding only months ago and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup – Qatar in the horizon, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted the National Coaches Online Session 2023 to analyse the performance of the Asian teams at the global showpiece.
The virtual workshop, which featured a star-studded line-up of some of the world’s most celebrated football personalities, including the likes of German legend Jurgen Klinsmann and Switzerland’s Pascal Zuberbuhler, was yet another indication of the Confederation’s determination in ensuring the success of Asian teams on the world stage.
The programme started with participants receiving a comprehensive overview of the performance of the Asian teams from the AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh.
“While there is still a long way to go, this FIFA World Cup was a wonderful demonstration of the potential that Asian teams possess,” said Roxburgh.
“The Asian teams took on some of the biggest European and South American teams and produced results which have given us grounds for optimism,” he said.
The programme then delved into an in-depth discussion with the coaches of the Asian squads at the FIFA World Cup as they highlighted some of the common trends, drawing attention to the high number of goals that were scored from collective counter-attacks and crosses while also pointing out the distinct fall in the conversion rates of set-pieces.
The experts also alluded to the need for Asian teams to uplift their mental and physical fortitude as well as the requirement for coaches to develop a clear game plan for the teams to follow.
Reflecting on Japan’s performance in this regard, Head Coach Hajime Moriyasu said: “Japan’s performance exuded a high level of confidence as a lot of Japanese players are finding success in European leagues where they share the field with some of the biggest names in the sport. Thus, they feel far less overwhelmed now.”
His words were echoed by Australian Head Coach Graham Arnold who used the example of Saudi Arabia’s victory over eventual champions Argentina to explain how it affected the mentality of other Asian teams.
“Saudi Arabia’s win gave Asian teams a tremendous morale boost. All across Asia, the level of football is getting better and I believe the actual success story for Asia in the FIFA World Cup was the exceptional collective fighting spirit that was displayed to the whole world,” he continued.
The conversation then moved on to the ever-evolving role of the modern goalkeeper where Swiss legend and FIFA Senior Football Expert Pascal Zuberbuhler emphasised the need for goalkeepers to be more in sync with the defensive line.
Finally, the participants got the opportunity to hear from 1990 FIFA World Cup champion and newly appointed South Korea Head Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann who hailed the laser sharp focus that was flaunted by some of the Asian teams, helping them power past former world champions such as Germany and Spain.
Klinsmann said: “We saw some fantastic games where Asia went in with a focus which needs to be appreciated. They proved a point to the whole world. Their determination and concentration enabled them to produce upsets that no one saw coming.”
Before the virtual meeting concluded, participants discussed the key learnings from the tournament for long-term development, such as increasing the opportunity to play competitively at the elite youth level and the need to educate young players in the art of reading the game.