News Live Scores Asia Team Of The Decade

It has been a pretty good decade for Asian football. It hosted a first World Cup and excelled on and off the pitch.

An increasing number of players are heading to Europe to test themselves against the best in the world and the profile of the domestic leagues has never been higher.

When thinking about this list, one thing became clear. Asia boasted a host of good strikers in the nineties but the noughties is all about midfield.

Ten years ago, Ali Daei, Sami Al Jaber, Hwang Sun-hong, Kazuyoshi Miura and Hai Haidong, just to name a few, would have been all pushing for a place in the forward line. This decade has seen a dearth of front men.

Also, while most of those players mentioned above, and other continental legends, had moments to remember in this century - Hong Myong-bo captained South Korea to a place in the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup - the majority of their careers were played before the new Millenium kicked in.

Consequently, Asia has plumped for players that have been more ‘noughty’ than ‘ninety’.

Formation (4-4-1-1)

Lee Woon-jae (South Korea)
  Old Spider-hands has been a mainstay of the South Korea national team all through the decade and, unsurprisingly, the high point came in 2002 with a series of super performances as Lee helped the Taeguk Warriors to the semi-finals, a penalty shootout triumph against Spain a personal triumph.

He was still going strong in Germany in 2006 and was the best goalkeeper at the 2007 Asian Cup.

Still Korea’s number one and while he will be 36 when South Africa comes along, he will be there.

Mehdi Mahdavikia (Iran)  It feels like ‘Kia’ has been around forever, he did, after all, score at the 1998 World Cup. He has spent his time since playing in the Bundesliga.

The versatile Iranian was a fixture by the North Sea with Hamburg for eight years and if there was any doubt to how the fans felt about the 2003 Asian Player of the Year, it was dispelled by an emotional goodbye by the fans as he moved to Eintracht Frankfurt. Consistent and classy.

Rehda Tukar (Saudi Arabia) The 33-year-old has been a rock at the back for Al Ittihad and Saudi Arabia throughout the decade.

It is not only in defence where he shines. He was named as the MVP of the 2004 Asian Champions League with four goals in the competition, including two in the final.

As well as helping the Tigers take the title back to Jeddah the following year, he went to the 2002 and 2006 World Cup finals.

He deserves to be better known outside Saudi borders.

Yuji Nakazawa (Japan)
Bomberhead was overlooked for the 2002 World Cup but hasn’t looked back since. He scored three goals in Japan’s run to the 2004 Asian Cup title and was impressive at the back in difficult conditions for the Blue Samurai.

That same year he was named as the J-League’s MVP as he helped Yokohama F Marinos to another title. He retired from the international scene after the 2006 World Cup but was quickly persuaded to return.

Nobody has had any cause to regret that decision as he was back to his old form at the 2007 Asian Cup and qualification for 2010.

Lee Young-pyo (South Korea)
Unspectacular perhaps but as solid as they come. Lee is versatile too, able to play on the left or right side of defence or midfield.

Over the years, Lee has racked up over 100 appearances for South Korea and has played in some of the biggest leagues in Europe.

Chorongi won titles in Korea before impressing Guus Hiddink at the 2002 World Cup to the extent that he was soon signing for PSV Eindhoven. After a slow start he became a regular fixture in the team and was excellent in the run to the semi-finals of the 2005 Champions League.

Then came stints in England, with Tottenham Hotspur, and after three years in London, he then spent a season in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund.

Javed Nekounam (Iran)
Iran’s talisman and at the peak of his powers. Not only has he racked up over 100 appearances for Team Melli, he went to Spain, the first Iranian to do so, joined a middling team and after a slowish start went on to excel.

Three seasons later and the fans and his team-mates at Osasuna love him.

What is impressive about the powerful Persian is how his game has grown over the years and he has added an attacking threat. The sight of the midfielder appearing at the far post to head in a cross is one that fans in Pamplona and Tehran are familiar with.

Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan) As cultured as they come, Nakamura has won plaudits and the hearts of fans wherever he has played.

Watching the press conference in 2002 when Phillipe Troussier announced that he had omitted the then-Yokohama Marinos man, few would have believed that he would then go on to earn respect around the world – not only for his ability but his demeanour off the pitch.

Adapted to life in Italy despite playing for relegation battlers, he was a hero in one-half of Glasgow and won titles and awards aplenty in Scotland. He also played a big part in Japan’s 2004 Asian Cup success.

He has struggled to shine in Spain as yet but it has been a very good decade from the star.

Park Ji-sung (South Korea) The most famous and successful player in Asian history. A star of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, his success at PSV Eindhoven earned him a dream move to Manchester United. Three Premier League titles followed as did Champions League finals.

Park is recognized around the world, has done a huge amount for the image of Asian football and is preparing to captain his team at what will be a third World Cup – not bad for a 28 year-old.

Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan) Burst on to the scene in the nineties but was going strong until the 2006 World Cup.

His arrival in Italy at a time when Serie A was arguably the best league in the world was huge news in Japan, his success there made him a star everywhere else. A big-money move to Roma brought the 2001 Scudetto and then came an even bigger money move to Parma.

A leader and pioneer for Japanese football, he demanded high standards from his international team-mates and was one of the stars of the 2002 World Cup and one of the better performers in the German campaign four years later.

Ali Karimi (Iran) The Wizard of Tehran has only just hung up his international boots. Any fans who were lucky enough to be in China for the 2004 Asian Cup, will long remember his performances – especially a majestic show against South Korea in the quarter-final when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-3 win.

Soon after he was collecting the Asian Player of the Year award and moving to Bayern Munich.

Younis Mahmoud (Iraq) In Asian football terms it doesn’t get much better than captaining your team to Asian Cup glory, one of the few ways it does is by scoring the winning goal in the final to give a war-torn country something to celebrate.

Good in the air, The Desert Fox leads the line well and while he may have struggled to repeat that form for his country since, the summer of 2007 is part of Asian football folklore.


          Lee WJ                

Mahdavikia - Tukar - Nakazawa - Lee YP

Nakamura - Nekounam - Nakata - Park



Subs: Hamad Al Montashari, Yasser Al Qahtani (both Saudi Arabia) Ismail Matar (UAE) Li Weifeng (China) Bashar Abdullah (Kuwait)

John Duerden

Asia Editor

NB- this article was originally published in July...