SPORTS KEN: 2022 FIFA World Cup revelations

Soccer fans the world over know which countries are seriously expected to contend for the World Cup championship.

In Latin America, almost every team – from Brazil to Peru, from Chile to Bolivia, from Argentina to the Dominican Republic – is capable of pulling the rug from under any country that poses a challenge.

Take note that soccer – not basketball, nor baseball or any other popular team event played in the US – is their national sport.

However, in Qatar, Morocco was the biggest revelation of all.

Its Cinderella-run culminated to a fourth place finish, ahead of powerhouse countries like England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

Called the Atlas Lions, the Moroccans upset a Ronaldo-laden Portugal eleven 1-0 to earn the right to fight for a podium finish.

In their semifinal clash against defending titleist France, they succumbed to a 0-2 defeat and were relegated to vie for third place.

Unfortunately, Croatia did not oblige them as the former won the bronze via a narrow 2-1 victory.

In Asia, Japan and South Korea did much better than the usual expectation by at least beating one ballclub in the preliminaries.

They earned passage into the next round – the knockout matches – where each stood their ground before eventually losing to much superior opponents.

In preliminary group matches, the Koreans drew with Uruguay (0-0), lost to Ghana (2-3) and upset Portugal (1-2) to get into the round of 16.
Brazil eventually eliminated the Taeguk Warriors 4-1.

Japan was the first ever Asian nation to qualify seven times for the World Cup. They were also the first Asian country to score an upset over a South American team, Colombia.
In Qatar, the Samurai Blue upended much-favored Germany and Spain with both 2-1 scores to get into the round of 16 where they were frustrated by Croatia in penalty kicks, 1-3.

I am wondering why Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, highly respected in the ASEAN hub, are not visibly making their presence felt.

Pinoys usually get a drubbing from these trio before the advent of the Azkals.

Millions of soccer fans in these countries – add Vietnam to the list – are so fanatical that stampedes occur when they smell something fishy during the conduct of their respective tournaments.

If my memory serves me right, I had witnessed one such behavior during one of my coverages of the SEA Games sometime in the 90s.

How many decades ago was it when Pinoys scored a surprise win over one of its soccer opponents in the SEAG?

Was it in 1991 when Pinoy strikers took the lights out of their Malaysian counterparts that forthwith resulted in a series of resignations among officials of the Malaysian Football Association?

Over here, while our basketball teams regularly reign supreme in the SEA region, nobody resigned when Indonesia embarrassed and shamed Gilas in men’s basketball in the SEA Games last edition.
Oh, sorry. I have digressed. (Email feedback to GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!

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