|Ji Yun-Nam of DPR Korea celebrates his goal during the Group G first round match between Brazil and DPR Korea at 2010 FIFA World Cup at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 15, 2010. Brazil won 2-1. (Xinhua/Li Ga)
BEIJING, June 17 (Xinhuanet) -- First the Republic of Korea (ROK), then Japan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The stunning first-up performances of Asian teams at the World Cup have excited Chinese fans who are hailing the improvement of the level of soccer in the region. However, they are also concerned now that China will have difficulty catching up with their neighbors.
The ROK got off to a flying start for the Asian teams when they outclassed former European champions Greece 2-0 on Saturday. Japan followed with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon on Monday. DPRK lost to five-time world champions Brazil on Tuesday but stunned the world with their strong will and amazing skills.
"As an Asian, I am so happy to see our countries doing better and better on the world stage. Some may say Asian countries had homefield advantage at the 2002 World Cup Finals in the ROK and Japan but they have proven themselves again," said Wang Wen, the president of the Beijing Soccer Fans Association.
The performances of China's neighbors has raised concerns about the standard of the game here and the national team's ability to qualify for another World Cup. The country made its only appearance at the World Cup finals in 2002 and did not claim a win in its three group matches and failed to even score a goal.
"I don't feel like saying anything now. Actions speak louder than words. We have to start working from now," said China's soccer chief, Wei Di, who is watching the Cup in South Africa.
The DPRK's encounter with Brazil also reminded many Chinese, including Wang, of China's 4-0 defeat to the South Americans in their 2002 World Cup group match, which Wang also attended.
"Although the DPRK lost, they really performed very well. They had some chances and even scored a goal. There is no way to compare our team's performance eight years ago with the DPRK's yesterday. We did not pose a threat to the Brazilians," the 52-year-old said.
However, Hao Haidong, a striker on China's team at the 2002 World Cup, refused to accept the criticism. "I think it's ridiculous to compare our match in 2002 with this match the Brazilians were the champions in 2002 and they are not that strong now. Why do we always lower ourselves through other teams' performances?" Hao wrote in his online column.