Best Asian Football team: Which is the best Asian squad for the upcoming World Cup and why?

Best Asian Football team: Which is the best Asian squad for the upcoming World Cup and why?

Kevin Omuya
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:14 PM

Asia may be the most populous continent, but that doesn't stop its citizens from loving the beautiful game. Interest in the round leather game, commonly known as soccer, has reached an all-time high in Asia over the past few decades. To help you prepare for the upcoming World Cup, this article ranks the best Asian football teams and explains why it is the best.

best Asian football team
South Korea on 11 July 2007 in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Photo: Jewel Samad
Source: Getty Images

As a result of increased funding, football leagues across the region have become increasingly competitive and attractive to international players. In Asia, many international clubs gather for pre-season training and tournaments, particularly those from Europe.

Top ten best Asian football teams

Recent years have seen several international and club football tournaments. Qatar will host its first FIFA World Cup in 2022. Here is a list of the top ten best Asian football team rankings.

10. The United Arab Emirates

best Asian football team in 2022
UAE's forward Ali Mabkhout celebrated with his teammates at the Saida Stadium in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on November 16, 2021. Photo: AFP
Source: Getty Images

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United Arab Emirates had only ever qualified for one FIFA World Cup in Italia in 1990. In 1992, it placed fourth at the AFC Asian Cup; in 1996, it came in second (as host). The 2019 edition, which it hosted, saw it advance to the semifinals after finishing third in 2015.

The United Arab Emirates won both the 2007 and 2013 editions of the Arabian Gulf Cup. Adnan Al Talyani, Ismail Matar, Ali Mabkhout, and Ahmed Khalil are just a few of the best players the United Arab Emirates has ever produced.

9. China

best football national team in Asia
Players from the Chinese National Football Team celebrated after defeating North Korea during the East Asian Football Championship on August 7, 2005, in Daegu, South Korea. (Photo: China Photos
Source: Getty Images

China finished second twice at the AFC Asian Cup (1984, 2004), which it qualified for but did not advance past the 2002 FIFA World Cup group stage after losing all of its matches without scoring a single goal. Li Weifeng, Gao lin, Hao Haidang, Yang Xu, and Wu Lei are just a few of China's all-time greats on the field. Football superstars from Europe have been flocking to the best Chinese clubs recently.

8. Iraq

best Asian football team rankings
Iraq's midfielder Aymen Hussein (C) celebrates scoring the equalizer with his teammates during the 2022 Qatar World Cup Asian Qualifiers football match on March 29, 2022. Photo: Karim Sahib
Source: Getty Images

Iraq has four Arab Cup titles and one AFC Cup title (2007, 2011). The only time Iraq qualified for the FIFA World Cup was in 1986. Younis Mahmoud, Alaa Abdul Zahra, Hussein Saeed, and Ahmad Radhi are some of the best players Iraq has ever produced.

7. Kuwait

best Asian football teams ever
Kuwait's defender Sami al-Sanea (C) celebrates with his team after scoring a goal during the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup Group B football match on November 27, 2019. Photo: Karim Jaafar
Source: Getty Images

Kuwait hosted and won the AFC Cup in 1980, and the country has made it to the FIFA World Cup once (in 1982). In 2000, Kuwait defeated Bhutan 20-0, the largest margin of victory in international football history. In 2001, Australia trounced American Samoa 31-0, setting a new record.

Kuwait was a strong football power in Asia from the 1970s through the 2000s; the national team began to decline in the 2010s, losing the 2011 and 2015 Asian Cups and being disqualified from the 2019 tournament.

Since their debut participation in 1982, the team hasn't even qualified for a single World Cup. Bader Al-Mutawa, Waleed Ali, Bashar Abdullah, and Jassem Al-Houwaidi are only some of the best players Kuwait has ever produced.

6. Qatar

top ten best Asian football teams
Qatar's forward Almoez Ali (3rd-L) celebrates with his team at the Al-Bayt Stadium in the Qatari city of Al-Khor on December 10, 2021. Photo: Jack Guez
Source: Getty Images

2019 marks Qatar's first and only AFC Cup title. Since Qatar will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the country will receive automatic qualification, making them compete for the best Asian football team in 2022. The competition will be held in an Arab country for the first time. Hassan Al-Haydos, AbdelKarim Hassan, Mubarak Mustafa, and Almoez Ali are just a few of Qatar's all-time great players.

5. Australia

best football national team in Asia
Australia celebrates winning the International Friendly match at Suncorp Stadium on September 22, 2022, in Brisbane, Australia. Photo: Chris Hyde
Source: Getty Images

Despite being a member of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), Australia shifted to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2006 and now competes against Asian nations. Five times has Australia participated in the FIFA World Cup. In 1997, it advanced to the FIFA Confederations Cup final.

Having won the OFC Nations Cup four times between 1980 and 2004 and the AFC Cup in the 2015 event held on home soil, Australia is the only national football team in history to have achieved this feat. Tim Cahill, Mark Schwarzer, Mile Jedinak, and Archie Thompson are some of the greatest Australian players in history.

4. Saudi Arabia

which football team is the best in Asia?
Saudi Arabia national football team celebrated winning their Round 3 of group B match in the 2018 World Cup Russia qualifiers in Bangkok on March 23, 2017. Photo: Roberto Schmidt
Source: Getty Images

Saudi Arabia won the AFC Cup (1984, 1988, and 1996). Furthermore, it has twice won the Arab Cup. Six times, Saudi Arabia has participated in the FIFA World Cup. In 1992, it became the first Asian nation to ever advance to the FIFA Confederations Cup final. Mohamed Al-Deayea, Majed Abdullah, Sami Al-Jaber, and Yasser Al-Qahtani are a few of Saudi Arabia's all-time greatest players.

3. Iran

most successful Asian football team
Iranian Players celebrate a goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Iran v Cambodia at Azadi Stadium on October 10, 2019, in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Amin M. Jamali
Source: Getty Images

Iran is the first and only nation to win the AFC Cup three ti, which did so in 1968, 1972, and 1976. It was ranked first among Asian national teams (2014-2018). Iran has participated in six FIFA World Cups making it one of the best Asian football ever.

Some of the best players to ever represent Iran are Javad Nekouanam, Ali Karimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, and Ali Daei, who held the record for most goals scored by an international player with 109 goals until Cristiano Ronaldo broke it in 2021.

Iran has the most impressive team in the AFC's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, managed by Dragan Skocic. Iran easily defeated its opponents, losing only to South Korea. They scored the most goals and had the most points of any nation.

2. Japan

best Asian football team
Japan's Keisuke Honda (C) celebrates with Shinji Kagawa (R) and Yuto Nagatomo after scoring the team's first goal on June 19, 2013. Photo: Kyodo News Stills
Source: Getty Images

AFC Asian Cup champion Japan has done it a record four times (1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011). The nation has made seven appearances at the FIFA World Cup. One of just three Asian nations, Japan made it to the FIFA Confederations Cup final in 2001.

The best, most appealing, and most competitive league in Asia is the J-league, Japan's top division. The leading Japanese football clubs have sent players to major European leagues. Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo, Kunishige Kamamoto, and Shunsuke Nakamura are a few of the top athletes to have represented Japan.

Some excellent players on the current Japanese national squad compete in prominent European leagues. They are Takefusa Kubo, Takumi Minamino, Shinji Kagawa, Yoshida Maya, and Shinji Okazaki. They form one of the best national football teams in Asia.

1. South Korea

Which football team is the best in Asia?
Uijo Hwang of South Korea celebrates with teammates after scoring at Wiener Neustaedter Stadion on November 14, 2020, in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. Photo: Christian Hofer
Source: Getty Images

The most successful national football team in Asia is South Korea. It has made ten appearances at the FIFA World Cup, the most of any Asian nation, and 9 of those appearances were consecutive. When South Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan in 2002, it led to Asia's best-ever finish when it advanced to the semifinals. Some of Asia's most prosperous soccer teams are based in South Korea. South Korea is the most successful Asian football team.

The first two competitions of the AFC Asian Cup were won by South Korea twice (1956 and 1960). Heung-min Son, Ji-Sung Park, Cha Bum-Kun, and Hong Myung-bo are a few of the best athletes to have ever played for South Korea.

These are positive developments for Asian football. There are hopes that the best Asian football team may step up from the tournament since six regional countries will compete in the World Cup for the first time.

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Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.