Which team has won the most Asian Cup titles?

The Asian Cup, the main competition organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), is the second oldest continental competition in the world, following the Copa America. It began in 1956 and has a frequency of every four years, similar to the Euro Cup. However, the Asian Cup has undergone significant changes throughout its history.

After the 2004 edition, it was decided to hold the next one in 2007 to avoid coinciding with other major international events such as the Beijing Olympics or Euro 2008. Since then, the frequency has returned to every four years, albeit in odd years. There are curious exceptions, though. For instance, the 2023 edition was entirely held in 2024 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, China was to organize the tournament, but the lockdowns experienced in the Asian giant led to its resignation. Qatar took over, albeit with a change in the calendar.

Dominance in Asian Football

In total, nine different teams have been crowned as Asian champions. The team that has won the Asian Cup the most times is Japan, with four championships in total (1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011). This is an impressive figure, especially considering the late implementation of football in Japan. Until 1988, the Blue Samurais had never qualified for the final phase of the tournament. However, once they got going, they became a true continental giant.

Asia is a gigantic continent, being the largest and most populated on Earth. Its 44.6 million square kilometers make up 8.7% of the Earth’s surface, leading to notable diversity among its different zones. This diversity is also reflected in football. The sport has evolved very differently in the various countries participating in the Asian Cup, something that can be noticed in its roll of honor.

Roll of Honor of the Asian Cup

  • Japan: 4 titles (1992, 2000, 2004, 2011)
  • Saudi Arabia: 3 titles (1984, 1988, 1996)
  • Iran: 3 titles (1968, 1972, 1976)
  • South Korea: 2 titles (1956, 1960)
  • Israel: 1 title (1964)
  • Kuwait: 1 title (1980)
  • Australia: 1 title (2015)
  • Iraq: 1 title (2007)
  • Qatar: 1 title (2019)

Western Asia’s Dominance

During its first two editions in 1956 and 1960, South Korea was the winner. Although the Tigers are considered one of the great teams of Asian football, as indicated by their 11 World Cup appearances, the truth is that they have not won again. In fact, until the rise of Japan in the 2000s, the Asian Cup was practically fertile ground for nations located in the western part of the continent.

In this way, two countries in the area have won the tournament up to three times. Iran (champion in 1968, 1972, and 1976) and Saudi Arabia (1984, 1988, and 1996) practically tyrannized the 70s and 80s respectively. This fact, added to Kuwait’s victory in 1980, denotes that at that time, football was much more developed in Western Asia.

Why Israel Has an Asian Cup

Geographically, Israel belongs to the Asian continent. However, in sports, we are used to seeing its football teams, including its national team, in tournaments sponsored by UEFA. Until 1974, the Israeli football federation was part of the AFC and competed in the Asian Cup. Notably, they hosted and won the tournament in 1964. The tournament consisted of four teams: Hong Kong, South Korea, India, and host Israel. Israel won all their matches and became the champion.

Israel was one of the founding countries of the AFC. However, political tensions with Arab and Muslim countries were always present. In 1974, after a loss to Iran in the Asian Games final, Kuwait and other Muslim powers refused to play against them. Consequently, the Israeli federation was expelled from the AFC. It spent some years between UEFA and OFC (Oceania) until it received full membership from UEFA in 1994.



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