Saudis in off-field win before Japan, Koreans exit World Cup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Hours before Japan and South Korea endured painful second-round exits from the World Cup in Qatar, mainland soccer rival Saudi Arabia had plenty to celebrate.

The All India Football Federation has decided to withdraw from the bid to host the 2027 Asian Cup, announcing that Saudi Arabia has become the sole host nation when all football focus in East Asia was on the knockout match between Japan and South Korea on Monday. Intercontinental Championship.

South Korea lost 4-1 to Brazil, while Japan was knocked out by Croatia after a penalty shoot-out, making a further advance at the World Cup than Qatar or Saudi Arabia. Off the field, however, the power of Asian football shifted west of the continent.

Saudi Arabia will be officially confirmed as the 2027 hosts when the AFC meets in Bahrain in February. It will be the first time the country has hosted an intercontinental competition and could also lead to a future World Cup bid.

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“People forget that Saudi Arabia has hosted many international events, including the 1989 World Cup Youth Cup and three Confederations Cups,” Hafiz Almedlai, a former member of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and AFC, told domestic media. “Given Saudi Arabia’s ability to host sporting events, the 2027 Asian Cup will be one of the most successful Asian events, which will demonstrate the country’s ability to host World Cups in the coming years.”

East Asian teams have traditionally performed better in football – South Korea reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2002 when they co-hosted it with Japan, which is still the best performance for an Asian team – and West Asia have run the gamut in sport.

The United Arab Emirates hosts the 2019 Asian Cup and Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa will be named AFC president in February for a third term. Qatar beat South Korea’s challenge in October to host the 2023 Asian Cup at facilities built for the World Cup.

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The KFA responded to the decision in October with a statement highlighting some of Qatar’s lobbying.

”Qatar has pledged huge financial support, such as the AFC being joined by its own company with additional sponsors, and currently due to COVID-19, Qatar has signed a massive rights contract with its own broadcasters and is currently suffer losses and support the operating expenses of the Asian Cup,” the Korean Football Association said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has never hosted the Asian Cup, and it has won it three times since the inaugural event in 1956. The most recent win was in 1996.

The 2027 bid was considered a blockbuster race when Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, India and Uzbekistan first made bids more than two years ago.

The Indian Football Federation said the 2027 Asian Cup was not in line with its strategic priorities.

“India has been an excellent and efficient host to major events, as amply demonstrated at the recently concluded FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup,” AIFF President Kalyan Chaubey said in a statement. “However, the executive committee has decided to , the federation’s overall strategy for now remains focused on fundamental goals to strengthen our football at all levels, from grassroots to youth development.”

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World Cup host Qatar was awarded the bid to host the 2023 Asian Cup after China handed it back, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is expected to be postponed until January 2024.

The KFA said in October that it needed time to reflect on its failure to win the Asian Cup bid, saying “more research and practice will be done on measures to strengthen international competitiveness and football diplomacy in the future.”

In the short term, however, with Japan and South Korea leaving Doha, they know they will be back soon.

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