SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has lauded the record lack of draws at the ongoing Asian Cup in Australia, but the absence of tied matches raises questions about the competitiveness of future 24-team expanded editions.
Five of the quarter-finalists at the 16-team tournament in Australia qualified with a group game to spare, with six of the first 20 matches being won by at least a three-goal margin.
There were no draws in any of the 24 group stage games, surpassing the previous mark at a major soccer event of 18 set at the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay, the AFC said.
Remarkable, as the regional body described it?
Or simply predictable, such is the gulf in class between the continent’s haves and have nots?
The prospect of Lebanon, Malaysia or Hong Kong joining the 24-team fray in four years’ time would likely dilute the group phase even further, weaken the tournament’s spectacle and only add to its length.
That, though, is a short-term view, according to the experienced English coach Steve Darby, who has worked extensively throughout the continent.
“By opening up the Asian Cup draw to 24, at least eight more countries have the chance to gain international tournament experience, which is so vital to development both on and off the field,” he told Reuters this week.