By Jonathan Olafioye
The September FIFA International break was not a good one for underdogs in the Asian Football Confederation AFC, as the draw’s “Pot 1″ teams, for the most part, exerted their dominance over “Pot 5″ minnows.
Starting on the night of September 3, Australia’s 5-0 thrashing of Bangladesh set the tone, followed by South Korea’s 8-0 dismantling of Laos, Iraq’s 5-1 conquest of Chinese Taipei, Iran’s 6-0 crushing of Guam, Saudi Arabia’s 7-0 romp over Timor-Leste, and Kuwait’s 9-0 victory over Myanmar.
Then there were the double-digit results, including UAE’s 10-0 cakewalk past Malaysia and a stunning 15-0 win by Qatar over Bhutan, who just months ago were the darlings of world football for having made it to the group stage.
The rout continues on Monday September 8, with Syria and Japan winning 6 goals to nil against Cambodia and Afghanistan respectively, with the latter teams playing in front of their home fans. Jordan playing away from home also won 4 goals to nil against Bangladesh.
When the AFC reconfigured the World Cup qualifying scheme, the idea was to get lower-level teams more competitive games play. But while one must wait until January 2019 to see that end result, one cannot deny that giving Asia’s smaller national teams a chance to play not one or two but up to 18 competitive fixtures over the next three years can only be to their benefit.
And today, with their measuring sticks in hand, smaller nations can set off to improve their programs so that in another cycle or two, the results aren’t as lopsided. In time, as minnows grow mighty, they will become capable of shocking the old guard.
In the meantime, fans of Asia’s top teams must understand that these lopsided results are not embarrassing; they are just factors that will contribute immensely to the development of the continent’s football in years to come. And let us all have it in mind that Rome was not built in a day! So let us give this minnows time.