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All but Australia do Asia proud

Cape Town: Asian teams have done the
continent proud in their opening games of the World Cup with
the exception of disappointing Australia, who were tipped by
many to be the region`s best chance of success.

Hundreds of millions of people across Asia have witnessed
gutsy performances from South Korea, Japan, North Korea and
even Oceania qualifier New Zealand.

North Korea scored their first World Cup goal in 44
years, Japan posted their maiden World Cup victory on foreign
soil and New Zealand picked up their first point ever.

But the Socceroos, who went further then any other Asian
nation at the World Cup four years ago, let the side down,
embarrassingly crushed 4-0 by Germany.

The most unexpected result came from Japan, who entered
the tournament on the back of four straight defeats and with
few punters expecting things to change.

But they scored a 1-0 upset victory over Cameroon that
has revived their spirits and given them fresh belief they can
emulate their march to the last 16 round at the 2002 World
Cup.

"The victory has given us some room to breathe, mentally,
before the remaining two games," said former Arsenal
midfielder Junichi Inamoto.

They face Holland next and coach Takeshi Okada is keen to
maintain a perspective.

"In the next game we will be up against the Netherlands
so we will have to go one step further," he said.

"This was the first win on foreign soil in the World Cup
for our team but this is not an achievement at all. What`s
coming next is the point."

South Korea, semi-finalists on home soil in 2002, also
achieved a hard-fought victory, beating Greece 2-0.

They now play Diego Maradona`s Argentina, which is likely
to be a far tougher test.

"This is only the start. It`s win number one but we have
to continue to grow," said coach Huh Jung-Moo.

"Argentina are one of the candidates for the title, they
have a lot of good players, but I have told my players to
remain confident."

Their northern neighbours might have lost 2-1 to Brazil,
but the performance from a team ranked 104 places below the
five-time champions was widely praised.

"Tactically and technically they were equal with Brazil
most of the time," said Asian Football Confederation President
Mohamed Bin Hammam.

"This is amazing considering that they are playing in the
World Cup after 44 years and their first game was against,
arguably, the best team in the world at present."

Nevertheless, it was a defeat and North Korea now have a
huge task ahead of them if they want to make the knockout
rounds, with Cristiano Ronaldo`s Portugal next up in Cape Town
on June 21.

While New Zealand stunned Slovakia with a stoppage time
equaliser to take their first ever World Cup point, their
fierce sporting rivals Australia flopped badly, with the loss
compounded by Tim Cahill being sent off.

Now, anything less than three points against Ghana on
Saturday will end their hopes of qualifying for the second
round -- a feat they managed four years ago before losing to
eventual winners Italy on a dubious penalty.

Their crushing defeat to Germany sparked a general
despondency back home and coach Pim Verbeek, whose tactics
have been criticised, has his work cut out to lift their
morale.

"You cannot compare this (Germany) game with the next
game. We have to learn from this game," he said.

"We have to score in the next two games, that`s clear."

Bureau Report

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