The 2014 World Cup draw Friday saw representatives of the world's leading footballing nations gather in Bahia to see their fate determined ahead of next year's competition. For Asia's finest, though, it was not a pleasant experience.
The AFC will have four representatives at next year's competition, headed by East Asian regulars Japan and South Korea. Australia, meanwhile, will be at their third consecutive tournament, while Middle East powerhouse Iran return to the global stage once more.
While Japan and Korea may feel that the draw was far from a disaster, both Australia and Iran saw their faint hopes of progression from the group stage of the competition lessened still by difficult draws.
Asia will be hopeful of at least one representative in the knockout stages of the tournament, but after Friday, there is a very real possibility that none will advance—despite the continent's definite progress in recent years.
How The Teams Fared
Australia: Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile)
The "Group of Death" is a phrase wheeled out at every tournament, and on this occasion, it is most definitely Group B to which it applies.
Sadly for Australia, they will be seen as the whipping boys of the pool, with European giants Spain and Netherlands, as well as South Americans Chile, all much stronger units at the present time.
Any win for the Socceroos would be a major success, while Ange Postecoglou would probably accept any result that sees his side emerge from the tournament with some kind of feel-good story to cling to.
The 2015 Asian Cup, which they will host, now looks to be a more realistic stage upon which to judge the side.
Japan: Group C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast)
There will be mixed feelings from Alberto Zaccheroni's side about their draw for the competition, with the feeling that they have a tough group, but it could also have been much worse.
Colombia will be well fancied on South American soil and should go far in the tournament, while both Greece and Ivory Coast are far from easy opponents. Japan, though, are an excellent side in many areas themselves.
If issues at centre-back can be patched up enough to withstand Greece and the Ivorians as an attacking threat, Japan will have a great chance of victory against both sides. At present, though, it is a big if.
Second in the group and progression could bring a difficult meeting with Italy or Uruguay, but a last 16 place in and of itself would be a reasonable showing.
Iran: Group F (Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria)
The small hopes that even the most passionate Iranian supporter held of progressing will have been dampened by Friday's draw, with three difficult opponents meaning just a point would be a positive outcome.
Argentina will be among the tournament favourites and will be expected to deal with anything that Iran can throw at them quite comfortably, meaning all hope will rest on the other two games.
The current Nigeria side, although African champions, are nothing special and could find life tough against Iran. However, the Super Eagles are blessed with attacking talent and experience that the Asians cannot match.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, meanwhile, may lack major tournament experience but have special talents in their squad that should see them comfortably outplay the Middle Eastern side. Nerves will be their only obstacle, at which point Iran could spring a surprise.
South Korea: Group H (Belgium, Russia, Algeria)
Hong Myung-Bo's Korea side have perhaps the best chance of the four to progress, with two mid-ranking European sides and perhaps Africa's weakest entrant in their group.
The opening clash with Russia will be vital, with a point desperately needed at a minimum to keep hopes alive. Belgium, while well fancied, are also unproven at major tournaments and have shown weaknesses in recent defeats to Colombia and Japan.
The side Korea will be banking on beating to secure progression will be Algeria, with the North Africans far from convincing in qualifying. It will be a far from easy game, but the Taeguk Warriors have some outstanding individual talents that must come to the fore.
Progression, though, would see a last 16 clash with one of Portugal, Germany, Ghana and the USA—all of which would provide stern opposition.
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