Asian Cup: Five Things We Learnt From Group D

FourFourTwo's Justin Davies had a look back at Monday's Group D action where Japan and Iraq prevailed against Palestine and Jordan respectively.

1 – Japan is a joy to watch

I know I am not telling anyone reading this something they didn’t know but then opening game albeit against a nation making its debut and ranked in the last 100s just cemented it. The reigning champions were crisp in their passing and transition. Ultimately they were unlucky not to have registered a few more goals against their minnow opponents but the four that were scored included surgical precision that will embarrass much better teams later in the tournament.

So anyone who is a fan of the beautiful game should make it their duty to check out the Japanese side in either of their remaining group games or failing that, their knockout games to witness a golden generation going about their work in our backyard.

2 – Palestine’s story was only the beginning

After the 90 minutes, the scoreboard may have read Japan 4 Palestine 0 but the score line, how crazy it sounds, in modern football didn’t matter – it was all about the moment. Monday afternoon in Newcastle was the spotlight for a team that galvanised the local Palestinian community and spawned a twitter account (@FutbolPalestine) to track their developments.

They occupied a corner of Hunter Stadium and turned it into a shining beacon of face paint and flags flying for the entire game and making the team’s debut a success despite the domination of the reigning champions. After the jitters of their debut, Palestine will be much more comfortable in their next games against Jordan and Iraq.

3 – Yaser Kasim won’t be at Swindon Town long

After his midfield teammate Massimo Luongo made an impressive debut on Friday down in Melbourne, it was almost fate that Kasim would have his own moment in the sun Monday night in a barren Lang Park. In a game that to be generous was frayed and filled with endeavour Kasim was a calming influence pulling the strings in midfield spraying passes up and down the turf.

His goal was a majestic fullstop to his performance on his night, as the frustration built on both sides were drawing coming into the final quarter hour of the match. Yaser glided into the box beating two Jordanian defenders before getting a slight deflection and firing home on his left to send the Iraqi fans in the stadium and scouts into raptures.

4 – Jordan looked like a team low on confidence and results

The loss on Monday made it twelve losses in a row for Jordan and heaped more pressure on manager Ray Wilkins. There were portions of the contest where Jordan showed flickers of the skill and talent that took them to the final play-off against Uruguay to make the World Cup but they were overshadowed by the constant fouls and niggly tackles to halt any momentum Iraq tried to build throughout.

It was a match billed as a sudden death contest to take second in the group and Jordan played devoid of confidence, fearing to lose and brought Iraq and unfortunately the game as a spectacle down to the level shown. Hopefully they may get a confidence boost against Palestine otherwise it will be a wasted tournament for them.

5 – The fears over crowds were unfounded

Before the tournament, I and quite a few others feared that Asian Cup attendances outside of the home nation at least weren’t going to be remarkable. Looking at the attendances over the first four match days have quelled any doubts on how non Australian games would go emphasised by the Sunday night game down in Melbourne dominated by Iranian supporters which has been a highlight of the tournament with the noise and colour produced in their 2-0 win.

Monday saw the lowest attendance thus far in the Iraq vs Jordan game (6840) but it never felt like the dead atmospheres that may pop up in the A-League from time to time as both sets of supporters filled the stadium with noise in every suitable moment for the contest – something maybe some A-League groups could heed.