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July 22, 2017

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Asia won't give up despite poor World Cup showing

SAO PAULO--Asia is refusing to give up on World Cup success despite its worst performance in 24 years when the four teams did not manage a win between them.

South Korea's 1-0 defeat to Belgium late on Thursday confirmed Asia's first winless showing since Italy 1990, when the Taeguk Warriors were the only Asian side.

After South Korea followed Japan, Australia and Iran out of the competition, an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) statement called it "an abrupt end."

At the last World Cup in 2010, both Japan and South Korea reached the knock-out stages.

And it came as Asia pushes for more places for its teams at the World Cup, a campaign supported by Sepp Blatter, head of global governing body FIFA.

But AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa said despite the disappointment, the tournament was a valuable learning experience for Asian teams.

"This World Cup serves as a lesson to all Asian nations," he said in the statement.

"The Asian teams are rather young on average so they can only get better, but what is of particular importance now is that we stay united."

"Asia must acknowledge its shortcomings, but at the same time we must believe in our own ability," he added. "The AFC is determined to unlock the full potential of Asian football."

Jeers and Cheers

The four teams scored just nine goals in 12 games. They conceded 25.

Australia won the most credit for their defiant performances against Chile and the Netherlands, raising their hopes for the Asian Cup which they will host early next year.

Iran were booed for their 0-0 draw with Nigeria before being applauded for nearly achieving the same scoreline against Argentina, if not for Lionel Messi's late winner.

The biggest disappointment was Asian champions Japan, who have players at top European clubs and were confident in their group against Colombia, Greece and Ivory Coast.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who quit after the Blue Samurai crashed out, said the age-old problem of physicality had been a factor.

"I think the culture of Japanese soccer and the special characteristics and technique of the players can cut it on the world stage but physical strength is what is lacking," he said.

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