Who is the greatest Asian to have missed out?
Kuala Lumpur: Asian nations and players have produced some of the biggest World Cup moments throughout the years, but some of the Continent's finest talents were unfortunate not to participate in the tournament. Here are six of the best, choose your favourite in the poll.
Hong Myung-bo, Sami Al Jaber, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Tim Cahill. Just some of the names of Asia's footballing elite to have left their mark on the global stage. But how about those stars of the Continental game who have not been so fortunate, for one reason or another, to represent their nation at the FIFA World Cup?
We review and recognise six of those players from Kirkuk in Iraq to Sydney, Australia and invite you to pick your favourite in the voting poll at the end of the article.
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“This is my dream, to go to the World Cup,” said Younis Mahmood in 2013. “I have done everything for my country, but we still haven’t gone to the World Cup.”
Alas, it would remain a dream unfulfilled for the former Iraq captain as his 11 goals across three World Cup qualifying campaigns were not enough to take the Lions of Mesopotamia to a second appearance in the Finals. Their sole appearance was in Mexico 1986 when Mahmoud was just three years old.
Despite netting 14 goals to lead Japan to their first ever FIFA World Cup in 1998, Kazuyoshi Miura was dropped from the Finals squad by coach Takeshi Okada.
The legendary forward started his career in Brazil as a teenager, before returning home to guide Japan to the 1992 AFC Asian Cup title as he was named the tournament’s MVP.
Two decades after retiring from international football, King Kazu, as he is endearingly known, still plays for Yokohama FC, and at 51-years-old he is the oldest active professional footballer and goal scorer in the world.
The Sydney-born defender represented the Socceroos 34 times, with the highlight of his international career captaining Australia to the semi-finals of the 1992 Olympic Games and the FIFA Confederations Cup final five years later.
By the time his nation qualified to the 2006 World Cup, their first in 32 years, Zelic was in the twilight of his career and had not played for the national team for nine years. He is widely recognised as one of the best players in the history of Australia, having plied his trade in England, Germany and France in a decade spent in Europe.
Asia’s finest export to European football won two Filipino league titles with Bohemian Club in between two spells at Barcelona where he made his name as a club legend. He represented the Philippines national team on two occasions and scored as the Azkals defeated Japan 15-2 in their biggest-ever victory in 1917.
Alcantara spent 13 years in total at the Catalan club and by the time he retired in 1927, he was the club’s all-time top goalscorer with 369 goals, a record that stood until Lionel Messi was able to break it 87 years later.
Long before Ali Daei reigned over all the records of Iranian football, Ghoulam Mazloumi was the football king of his country. The forward led his country to two consecutive AFC Asian Cup titles in 1972 and 1976 but was unlucky to retire one year before Team Melli played in their very first World Cup in 1978.
At club level, Mazloumi is considered a legend at Esteghlal, carrying the club to their first Asian Club Championship title in 1970 when the club was known as Taj. He also won two Iran Pro League titles and was the competition's top goalscorer twice.
Park Sung-hwa was one of Korea Republic’s top players in the 1970s and 1980s, netting 26 goals in 103 caps for the Taeguk Warriors, but a knee injury saw him miss out on Korea Republic's return to the World Cup in 1986 after a 32-year absence.
As a coach, Park would go on to win back-to-back Asian Club Championships, leading Pohang Steelers to the title in 1997 and 1998.
Now that you've read about all six, pick who you believe to be the best player in the poll below!
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