BANGALORE: The Japan Football Association had made a declaration in 2005 that the county's football family would be five million strong and it would be among the top 10 playing nations in the world by 2015.
The JFA also took a pledge for 2050: By 2050, Japan's football family will be 100 million strong, Japan will host the FIFA World Cup and emerge as the champion as well.
Yasushi Yoshida, Japan's youth team coach, had made a bold declaration too in an interview with the Express during the 2007 Asian Youth Cup in Bangalore. "Fifty years from now, Japan will not go to a World Cup to merely participate but to win the cup."
Japan still have a year in hand to achieve their more immediate goal. They are the Asian champions but in the rankings, they are No 2 below Iran and are at 46 on the FIFA list.
Australia, who moved to the Asian zone before the 2006 World Cup, are at No 5 in Asia and 62 on the FIFA list of 205 nations.
Japan and Australia lost their games 1-2 to Cote d'Ivoire and 1-3 to Chile respectively.
More than the defeats, it was their actual play that exposed the huge difference in playing standards if you compared the two nations and those from South and Central America.
Iran, Asia's No 1 and the highest ranked in the FIFA list at 43, and South Korea at No 3 and 57 on the two ladders, have yet to play their opening games. No doubt South Korea made it to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup at home. That has been the biggest achievement by an Asian nation so far.
Yet, one can safely presume that it will remain so for a long time to come.
Soccer is as much a psychological game as as it is physical.
All those who teach and preach football in Asia have largely left the mental aspects aside to the detriment of their teams and players.
Not that they are unaware of it. The focus is more on the upliftment of physical standards thereby sidelining the psychological requirements.
Skill plays an important part. But every facet can not be developed by practice.
As long as players fear ball possession and negotiate the field more in hope than design, nothing will be achieved.
In doing so, they occupy only the length of the field leaving the widths untenanted.
This results in the opponent not being stretched. Openings can barely be created for passes and shots at goal.
Wing play is the casualty. As India's famous winger of the 1970s Surajit Sengupta once said, "Without wings how can you fly?"
That in a nutshell has been the undoing of Asian nations in the World Cup. South Korea and Iran now have the responsibility of making fresh beginnings.
Asia awaits their performances.