Founded in 1954, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is one of FIFA’s six continental confederations. The Northern Mariana Islands was the latest member to join, becoming the 47th member of the AFC with its arrival in 2020.
Although teams in Asia have historically not performed as well as those from Europe or South America, they have begun to rise in the FIFA ranks, partly due to an increased interest in football around the globe in recent years.
Allow us to take a look at the five highest-rated Asian teams in the AFC at the moment.
Saudi Arabia comes in at the fifth spot, ranking 56th globally. While they have fallen quite a bit from the 21st spot they held in 2004, they have managed to climb their way back up from their lowest rank of 126 in 2012.
Saudi Arabia has a massive following of football, with Saudi authorities saying that over 80% play, attend or follow football, the national sport.
The Arab nation is trying its best to leave its impact on football, with the Saudi Pro League spending close to a billion dollars in recent years, acquiring 94 overseas players from Europe’s major leagues.
Saudi Arabia surprised the world in the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they beat Argentina 2-1, in what many consider to be one of the greatest upset in football history.
As their love and interest in football grows, it is likely their national team will continue to rise in the ranks as well.
In fourth spot, we have Australia. While they are not technically an Asian country, they became the 46th member of the AFC when they joined in 2006.
Australia is currently ranked 25th in the world, 11 spots higher than their best of 14th back in 2009, but much better ranked than their 100th place held in 2014. Aside from dropping four spots between 2017 and 2019, their rank has slowly been increasing year over year since then.
Australia also takes the third spot in the Women’s AFC rankings, placing 12th in the world.
Korea Republic (South Korea)
Currently ranked 23rd in the world, South Korea takes the number three spot on our list. Their highest rank was achieved in 2002, after they made it to the semi-finals in that year’s World Cup, losing to Germany 1-0.
The lowest rank for the country was four years later, placing at 51st on the ranking in 2006.
In recent years, South Korea has impressed spectators and fans alike with games such as their 2-1 win over Portugal in the 2022 World Cup.
The women’s team for Korea takes fifth spot in the Women’s AFC rankings, placing 20th in the world.
The second country on our list from the Middle East, Iran takes the number two spot. Currently ranked #21 in the world, Iran’s lowest ranking was 108th in 1995, and they achieved their highest rank of 15th in 2005.
Football is currently the most popular sport in the country. In 2023, the head of the country’s football association, Mehdi Taj, reported that women will soon be allowed in stadiums to watch games live for the first time since they were barred from entering large stadiums in 1979. When this much-needed change takes effect, the sport will most likely grow even larger than it is today.
Japan is well deserving of the number one spot on this list, as they have been improving at an impressive rate in recent years.
The country reached its highest rank of ninth in 1998 and was at its lowest in 2006 with a rank of 47. Today they sit in 17th.
The team has become known for their ability to work together as a team, with players creating beautiful goal-scoring opportunities. They are also a very clinical team, keeping their shots on target, and being able to perform while under pressure.
The Japanese national team has qualified for every FIFA World Cup since 1998 and has also won the AFC Asian Cup four times (1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011).
The Japanese women’s team also takes the top spot in the women’s AFC.