The 2012 Olympic Games will be remembered for many things – the opening ceremony, the highs, the lows, the scandals and the glory and a great couple of weeks for football.
In the men’s tournament, both South Korea and Japan have reached the semi-finals while the continent’s third representative, United Arab Emirates impressed many watching with the football it played.
Japan has breezed through to the last four. It is not a surprise that a talented team has made it out of its group but finishing top above Spain was not expected.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
That came on the back of a 1-0 victory over the highly-fancied Spaniards who are the champions of Europe and the world at senior level. It wasn’t just the fact that Japan won, it was the way in which the Asian team outplayed the Fura Rojia – the scoreline should have been much more emphatic.
Then came a win over Morocco and a tie with Honduras to top the group. A quarter-final match-up with Egypt looked tricky but Japan ended up winning 3-0 and now face Mexico on Tuesday with a place in the final at stake.
Korea’s journey to the last four has not been quite as smooth. The Taeguk Warriors came second in their group after a 2-1 win over Switzerland was sandwiched in between two goalless draws with Mexico and Gabon.
While the defense has been holding firm, the goals scored did not reflect the fact that Korea had been in control of the games for long periods.
A quarter-final against host Great Britain was a tough ask in front of 80,000 home fans in Cardiff. The game eventually ended up 1-1 before Korea took the penalty shootout on Saturday evening to book a tie with favorites Brazil in the last four.
And then there was UAE. Written off as no-hopers the team gave Uruguay and Great Britain quite a scare before losing 2-1 and 3-1 respectively. Then it drew 1-1 with a talented Senegal team – not bad for a nation of a million people.
Some of the attacking football the team played has won praise from all quarters and 19 year-old midfielder Omar Abdulrahman is already being linked with a number of English Premier League clubs.
"The number 15 (Abdulrahman) is a very good player who plays beautiful football,” said England defender Micah Richards after facing him at Wembley. “He’ll be one of those players we should keep an eye on in the future."
The UAE was eliminated but left with heads held high and Japan and South Korea are still going strong.
Already they have done wonders for the standing of Asian football around the world but if they were to meet in the final, well, that would be something else.