The football tournament at this summer’s Asian Games ended in style, with South Korea’s men’s team defending their Gold Medal from 2014 with a 2-1 extra time victory over Japan. This victory has grabbed headlines across the world as it earns Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son an exemption from mandatory military service, allowing the forward to spend the best years of his career in North London.
Despite their defeat, the Blue Samurai’s strong showing gives hope their side hope going into the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Japan mostly fielded an Under-21 side at this tournament with the hope of preparing the squad that will take on the world on home soil in two years time.
Elsewhere, Japan’s women’s team won their football tournament with a 1-0 victory over China in the final.
Across both competitions, Vietnam was the strongest South-East Asian side, with the men reaching the semi-finals for the first time in their history, and the women also qualifying for the knockout stage from the tournament’s toughest group. On the men’s side especially, this tournament may signal the coming of a new golden generation for the nation.
Another team that can be proud of their achievements is Malaysia, who have succeeded in bringing through a young team that could challenge for the SEA Games in 2019.
It was a bittersweet campaign for hosts Indonesia, as the elation following their qualification from Group A was quickly put to bed with a loss against the UAE in the first knockout round. The long-term impacts of the tournament are yet to fully manifest, with a saga concerning the contract of national team head coach Luis Milla dominating the news in the country so far.
2014 semi-finalists Thailand were left with a lot of questions to answer, with both the men’s and women’s teams returning home without a single win to their name. This failure has prompted wholesale changes within the Football Association of Thailand, who are now on the hunt for a new director of football.
Myanmar also gave their fans something to cheer with a close run battle for qualification in a star-studded group featuring Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan, while Laos and East Timor were unable to assert themselves at the competition.