Best Footballing Nations in Asia

Published: April 3, 2014

The list is my personal ranking about the strongest national football (teams) in Asia based on my estimation of the current strength of their squad, historical performance in international competitions, strength of their domestic league and my experience watching Asian football. 

  1. South Korea

    The Korean team is almost a sure qualifier for every World Cup and they have made it farther than any Asian team (4th place in 2002). They have proven that they can perform well or at least descently against some of strongest teams in the world.

  2. Japan

    Normally qualifies for the World Cup each year and they have some very strong players at some of the world's premier clubs. The J-League is very likely the strongest domestic league in Asia.

  3. Australia

    A strong team, with many players playing in the English League and normally a shoe in for the World Cup.

  4. Iran

    Generally a strong team. Have qualified for this years world cup and also in 1998. They have some good players in both the Spanish and German leagues as well.

  5. Iraq

    The "Lions of Mesopotamia" Have done well in international competitions in the past and have qualified for the World Cup before. Were very strong in the 1980's when Uday Hussein was chairman of the Iraqi Football Association.

  6. Saudi Arabia

    Have qualified for the World Cup before and have a good domestic league. Certainly, they are the strongest team of the gulf states. 

  7. North Korea

    Not a traditional powerhouse, but surprisingly they qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and their performance in the tournament was surprising to many. Also, some good players in N. Korea are playing in the Japanese premier league. 

  8. UAE

    Most recent gulf state besides Saudi Arabia to have qualified for the world cup and there are also several strong club teams from the United Arab Emirates that have competed in and won the AFC Champions League.

  9. China PR

    Despite the huge population of the country, football in China has been stifled by corruption, which is probably why the country has only played in one World Cup (2002) where they lost all their games. However, their domestic league gained attention when Shanghai Shenhua signed superstar Didier Drogba.

  10. Kuwait

    The only other Asian team to have qualified for the World Cup (1982) where they were eliminated in the first round. There are some strong teams in the kuwaiti domestic league, but the majority of the top club teams in the Gulf are located in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

While traditional powerhouses South Korea and Japan have dominated Asian football for the last 20 or more years, the addition of Australia to the AFC and the return of Iran as a legitimate competitior in Asian Football have increased the level of competition and excitement in Asian football. We have also seen Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan perform better recent world cup qualification tournaments. We can only imagine that the quality and strength of Asian football has no where to go but up.