Unbeknownst to many fans of association football, the World Cup is not the only important tournament for fans of international football events. The AFC Asian Cup has a somewhat smaller reputation than the World Cup, but a great standing amongst fans in Australia, especially since Australia is hosting the Asian Cup finals in 2015. Football fans with an interest in the tournament may wish to learn a little more about the history and statistics of the Asian Cup, the second oldest continental football tournament in the world.
The Copa America was founded in 1916 and enjoys the accolade of being the oldest tournament in football, beating the original 1930 World Cup by 14 years. As both tournaments proved popular with fans, Asian football fans were rewarded with a tournament of their own in 1956.
As with the European Championships and the Copa America, the tournament is staggered so it does not cause a scheduling conflict with the World Cup. Since the original 1956 tournament the event has grown in popularity, bringing together all of the top teams from the region to compete for a prize much sought-after, and second only to the World Cup in prestige for Asian teams.
The growth of the roster
Initially there were very few teams signed up to compete in the 1956 tournament hosted in Hong Kong. The Korean Republic won that tournament, with Israel being the runners-up. Initially South Korea, Hong Kong, South Vietnam, and Israel were the only teams to compete.
Chinese Taipei joined the fray in 1960, followed by India in 1964, Iran and Myanmar in 1968, and Cambodia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Thailand in 1972. Australia finally joined the roster in 2007, and the 2015 tournament has no less than 16 different teams competing for the biggest prize in Asian football.
The road to glory
The Socceroos of Australia are one of the 16 teams that completed a successful qualifying campaign for the 2015 tournament. The up and coming Socceroos team seems likely to approach the campaign with vigor after a heartbreaking extra-time defeat in the 2011 final against Japan. Other teams that qualified for the 2015 tournament include Bahrain, who made a debut in the 1988 tournament and had to wait 16 years for another bite of the cherry, and two-time quarter-finalists Qatar.
The Korea Republic also made the grade after a strong qualifying campaign and starts the tournament ranked third amongst Asian teams, and their traditional rivals from North Korea also qualified after a slow start saw the team lose to Kuwait but quickly regain form and win against both Hong Kong and Guam.
Japan is the undisputed champion of the tournament, with a captain wearing the blue and white Japanese football shirt hoisting the trophy in triumph on four separate occasions. Indeed, the Japanese have proved the most efficient in recent years, winning the 2011, 2004, 2000, and 1992 tournaments.
The Iranian and Saudi-Arabian teams have proved to be the biggest threat to Japanese dominance, with both teams winning the tournament on three separate occasions each. South Korea won the tournament twice in 1956 and 1960, and the other victors only lifted the cup in victory one time each, including Iraq in 2007, Kuwait in 1980, and Israel back in 1964.
Fans of football know that it is a team game, but the mercurial skills of the most famous strikers and attacking players are always impressive to kids and adults alike, ensuring the best strikers are always a little more famous than their stalwart defensive counterparts. The most prolific striker in the history of the tournament was arguable one of the most skillful players to ever kick a football.
Ali Daei is a former captain of the Iranian team and was a highly regarded club level player for the German giants Bayern Munich. Daei's impressive tally of 14 goals in the tournament is yet to be matched, with the former Middlesbrough and South Korea striker Lee Dong-gook coming closest with 10 goals.
How to buy Asian Cup memorabilia on eBay
Whether you are seeking branded sportswear, an Asia Cup flag to wave at a game, or just some collectible stamps, you are sure to find a huge range of suitable football and Asian Cup memorabilia on eBay. Using the search box located on every page, simply type the name of an item that you need, such as "Australia shirt" or "Asia Cup stamps" and a large range quickly appears. Then, simply click on the filters to quickly find exactly what you are looking for.