It became popular to complain before the Asian Cup kickoff about the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams. Many believed that we will see less competitive teams and the first stages will be boring.
In the third day of the Asian Cup, after some surprising results like the victories by Jordan and India, we got a double-header of Eastern clashes with the same features. From one side, an experienced team that knows well what this tournament means, while from the other side, a new team in its first ever Asian Cup match.
Kyrgyzstan managed to surprise everyone in the match against China. They played well and were even better than China for long periods during the match. The unexpected leading goal by Akhlidin Israilov was actually expected considering the Kyrgyz performance.
Eventually, China avoided defeat. Their two goals were enough for a 2-1 win and the first Asian Cup victory for Marcello Lippi. These goals were scored as a result of mistakes made by the Kyrgyz goalkeeper, Pavel Matyash, but it wasn't actually because he is not good enough.
The mistakes of Matyash and the decrease of the Kyrgyz abilities in the last minutes of the match are mainly caused by they are inexperienced enough. If they will get more chances to play at such levels, they could face China and feel equal. That is a good enough reason for the Asian Cup expansion.
The match between South Korea and The Philippines was also a match that was decided by the experience differences. Before the winning goal of Hwang Ui-Jo, The Philippines attacked and were close to score first.
The Philippines have a great addition to their squad compared to Kyrgyzstan. Apart from players with experience of playing in Europe, they have a top-level manager like Sven-Göran Eriksson. We can see how much influence the foreign managers have on their teams in this tournament, bringing their own philosophy to the squad and making the players feel much more confident.
The next few matches in Group C will make it even more interesting. After playing a type of chess against South Korea, he will face a grand master like Marcello Lippi. Kyrgyzstan will have to show that their match against China wasn't a coincidence and they can play well also against South Korea.
Additionally, here is something to think about it – 5 out of the first 7 matches were tied or were decided by one goal. The last champions were defeated and the runner-ups barely won. Do you still think that the 24-team Asian Cup would not be good enough?