A tournament like no other
Kuala Lumpur: From its humble beginnings in 1956, the AFC Asian Cup has developed into the Continent’s premier football tournament, bringing together the top national teams from the length and breadth of Asia to compete for one of international football’s most sought-after prizes every four years. With the AFC Asian Cup 2019 UAE exactly a year away, the-AFC.com reviews how the competition has progressed into the Continent's most prestigious football tournament.
The tournament had its roots in the formation of the Asian Football Confederation in Manila in 1954. The 12 founding members of the AFC sought to shape the development of the game in Asia and one of the keys to achieving that aim was the organisation of a regional competition for the continent’s national sides.
Some two years later, the first ever AFC Asian Cup was staged in Hong Kong with eight Member Associations vying for the right to be declared champions of Asia.
Over half a century later, the AFC Asian Cup has grown to encompass teams from throughout the continent and has become the barometer by which the continually changing balance of power in Asian football is measured.
From the dominance of Korea Republic in the early years of the competition, the AFC Asian Cup became the preserve of the Islamic Republic of Iran who won three consecutive tournaments from 1968 to 1976.
During the 1980s, the Gulf states asserted themselves with Kuwait – in 1980 – becoming the first Arab side to win the competition, before Saudi Arabia claimed three of the next four titles, reaching the final five times in a row.
Japan’s AFC Asian Cup victories in 1992, 2000 and 2004 then signalled a shift in power back to East Asia at the turn of the Millennium.
In 2007, the competition was co-hosted for the first time, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam providing the backdrop for the AFC Asian Cup’s 14th edition. Iraq sensationally defeated Saudi Arabia to clinch the title in Southeast Asia, with the fairy-tale win a clear sign of football’s immense power to bring people together.
Four years on and the coveted crown returned to Japan as the Samurai Blue claimed a record fourth AFC Asian Cup success in Qatar, before defeated finalists Australia regrouped to claim the trophy on home soil in 2015.
1956 Korea Republic
1960 Korea Republic
1968 Islamic Republic of Iran
1972 Islamic Republic of Iran
1976 Islamic Republic of Iran
1984 Saudi Arabia
1988 Saudi Arabia
1996 Saudi Arabia
Album: The AFC Asian Cup through the years