It's an interesting article, but I think it's wrong on several levels. First of all, it's farcical that places like the Bbc have been devoting acres of space to the African Nations while largely ignoring the Asian Cup. That may have something to do with the time zone, but there's not many other excuses.
The Asian confederation represents the majority of the world’s population, some of its richest countries and many of its biggest economies. Yet its premier tournament boasted no team in Fifa’s top 50.
Africa, by comparison, has 11. In other words, the powerhouses of Asia – Iran (ranked 51 at the start of this month) and Japan (54) – are comparable to South Africa (52), who flopped spectacularly at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
Fifa’s calculations could be wrong, of course, but even using Nate Silver’s more sophisticated Soccer Power Index, Africa blitzes Asia: nine top 50 spots to three at the last count. So why such a gulf in class?
Before you get all excited, South Africa is not as good as Japan or Iran. The FIFA rankings are a joke. They managed to get Uzbekistan seeded ahead of Korea for the Asian Cup for such a patently ridiculuous reason that I dare not mention it (but nzfooty posted it here
). I don't know much about Nate Silver's rankings, but the impression I got last time I looked is that him and his associates were constantly tweaking it and they are probably skewed by the last World Cup. The ELO rankings
are a much better judge for me. There are three Asian teams before you get to any African teams and with 7 and 8 teams respectively in the top 60 it's much of a muchness as far as a "gulf in class" goes. They also have a "top teams since the mid 1960's" list on there, and again there are three AFC teams before you get to a single African.
Saudi Arabia coach Cosmin Olăroiu spoke of his side lacking both the strength and organisational nous (on-field and off) to be truly competitive. His entire squad plays in the Saudi Professional League; the squad of Africa’s top team Algeria includes players from Tottenham, Napoli, Parma, Valencia, Sporting, Porto, Dinamo Zagreb, Trabzonspor and elsewhere in Europe’s big leagues.
Is entirely data fishing. Saudi Arabia pay their players well because they have lots of money. Several of the Algerians are actually French anyway. The German Bundesliga is full of Korean and Japanese players. I saw two of them play on Tuesday night and there were another three starters missing through injury, all in one match.
“Everybody kind of looks at China and scratches their head and tries to figure out why a country with 1.3 billion don’t do well in football. Here’s the reality: nobody plays. And a lot of people don’t get that.”
Is completely contradicted by FIFA numbers
which put China top with 26 million players, four times the biggest African country Nigeria. If they're getting that quote from someone who works in the Chinese system then maybe he knows things that FIFA doesn't, but something doesn't add up.
Stielike makes a fair point at the end
“There is a lot of rivalry – Korea is looking at what Japan is doing, Japan is looking at what China is doing – we are observing each other and we forget a little the development of the football (in countries like) Spain, Germany, is passing by us. For the moment, the distance is going bigger and bigger. And this is something that we have to stop.”
I would put this mainly down to the elite improving a lot in Europe and leaving everyone else in Europe behind, not just Asia. The ability of top teams in Europe to go undefeated through the qualifiers is high at the moment and the number of club teams capable of winning doubles and trebles has gone through the roof. Asia had a bad World Cup. But it doesn't justify writing them off completely.