As the group stage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada comes to a close, four Asia-Pacific teams have advanced to the knock out round – Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea. Their advancement reflects the dominance of Northeast Asian and Oceanic teams in the region’s football competitions. But from a Southeast Asian perspective, the tournament was most notable for the appearance of Thailand, the first team from the region to qualify for a World Cup, men’s or women’s, in 77 years. Despite the huge popularity of European and Asian club football in Southeast Asia, national teams have struggled to make an impact on the world stage. We put the performance of the Thai women’s team, nicknamed The War Elephants, into context by the numbers.
Number of victories a Southeast Asian team has recorded at the men’s or women’s World Cup. Thanks to Thailand’s 3-2 victory over Cote d’Ivoire on June 11, Southeast Asia can now claim its first victory in the tournament. Thailand narrowly missed qualifying for the round of 16 based on inferior goal difference.
Minute in the match against Cote d’Ivoire in which Thai striker Orathai Srimanee scored the first goal ever for Thailand, or any Southeast Asian team, at a World Cup Finals tournament.
The only time previously that a Southeast Asian team played in the World Cup. Pre-independence Indonesia, called the Dutch East Indies, was the first Asian team to play in the men’s tournament hosted in France. The team played one match, losing 6-0 to eventual finalist Hungary.
The number of times since 1938 Southeast Asian men’s national teams, including from Timor-Leste, have played in qualification matches but failed to qualify for the World Cup. Many national teams did not participate or withdrew from the World Cup qualification process prior to 1974. Today it is widely acknowledged that Asian teams faced latent racism from the European dominated International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA, up until the mid-1980s. For example, in 1982 all of Asia and Oceania (21 entrants at the time) had the option to compete for two places in the World Cup finals tournament, while there were 13 places available to 33 European teams. As the men’s tournament has expanded, funding to football associations has increased, and interest in football has grown, more Southeast Asian teams have consistently entered the qualification rounds.
Members of Thailand’s 2015 Women’s World Cup roster who play professional football outside of Thailand. Forwards Thanatta Chawong and Taneekam Dangda represent the Swedish club Östersunds DFF.