What is Asian Cup?

The tournament is held every four years; the champion will automatically qualifies for the FIFA Confederations Cup

Competition: AFC ASIAN CUP
Founded: 1956
Teams: 16

History and origin of Asian Cup

The AFC Asian Cup trophy which is awarded to the winner of the tournamentThe Asian cup is a championship played by nations under the Asian Football Confederation, AFC.  The first edition of the AFC Asian cup was held in 1956, two years after Asian Football Confederation (AFC) was formed.

This makes it the second oldest continental tournament after Copa America. The first edition of the competition was staged in Hong Kong with four teams taking part in the final stage.

The next two tournaments were also played by four teams. The hosts would qualify automatically as the other slots were taken by champions of the three zones; the eastern, western and central zones. The format changed after the introduction of a group stage in 1972. There were six participants in the transformed system, drawn into two groups of three. Two teams from each group advanced to the knockout stage. Over the years, the number of teams taking part has gradually increased to the current 16 team format.

Asian cup dominant teams

Team Iran recorded three consecutive wins in the competitionGenerally, dominance in the competition shifts between the eastern and western zones of Asia. Initially, the champions of the eastern region, South Korea, won two titles in a row. Iran then put up fine performances as they recorded three consecutive wins in the competition from 1968 to 1976.

Saudi Arabia has also had successful spells in the Asia Cup competition, winning three of the five appearances in the final between 1984 and 2000. Other two major powerhouses have emerged in the recent decade, Japan being the outstanding team with a record four-title wins and Australia managing to put up major challenges in the championship since joining in 2006.

Visit out our complete list of the AFC Asian Cup tournament champions.

Asian Cup scope of the competition

The 47 member associations of the Asian Football Confederation participate in the Asian Cup. Members are nations mainly located in Asia and the Australia continent. The associations are currently grouped into various zones, the South, West, East South East and Central Asia. The Football Federation Australia joined AFC in 2006. In addition, the Oceania island of Guam which lies in the United States’ territory is among the member associations.

Israel and Cyprus lie in Asia but are actually members of UEFA. Israel participated in the 1954-1974 tournaments before the Israel Football federation decided to leave AFC and join UEFA in 1994 following exclusions from the AFC tournaments.

New Zealand Football and the Football Federation of Kazakhstan were also members of AFC before shifting to the Oceania Football Confederation, OFC, and UEFA respectively. Other non-members around Asia include the transcontinental countries, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

Example: AFC CUP 2015 tournament groupings and format
AFC Asian Cup 2015 tournament groupings and format

Asian Cup tournament qualification phase

In the earlier tournaments, teams competed across the three zones. Matches at the qualification level were played in two-legs. Each of the three zones would produce its champion to represent the region in the final phase of the championship together with the host nation.

There is still a qualification process prior to the kickoff of the final tournament. However, the system includes sixteen teams in the final tournament. The recent competitions have left ten slots to be determined through the qualification process while the other six places are set aside for the host, the top three nations in the preceding edition of the AFC Asian Cup and two for winners of the preceding AFC Challenge Cups.

Twenty teams are drawn into qualification matches played in groups of four. The matches are played on home and away basis with the top two teams qualifying for the final. The best third placed team(s) fills any of the automatic qualification spot not utilized.

Asian Cup tournament group & format

The eligible teams for the final round play in two stages, namely the group and knockout stages. There are four groups of four teams each. Each team plays three matches at the group stage level, one match against every other team. The winner and runner-up of each team advances to the next level which is referred to as the knockout stage.

Video: Groups (A-D) and tournament format of the 2015 Asian Cup

The knockout stage is basically a one-leg elimination contest. Eight teams get into the quarter finals followed by the four winners facing off in the semifinals to determine which teams get to play in final match of that edition of the AFC Asia Cup. The two teams that lose in the semis play a third place match. The ultimate winner of the championship automatically qualifies for the FIFA Confederations Cup and is awarded the AFC Asian Cup Trophy to keep for the four years until the cup is contested again.

Country with most wins in AFC Asian Cup

CountryNo. of WinsYear(s) Won
Japan Japan 4 1992, 2000, 2004, 2011
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 3 1984, 1988, 1996
Iran Iran 3 1968, 1972, 1976
South Korea South Korea 2 1956, 1960
Israel Israel 1 1964
Kuwait Kuwait 1 1980
Iraq Iraq 1 2007
Australia Australia 1 2015


AFC Asian Cup top goalscorers

PlayerGoals Made
Iran Ali Daei 14
South Korea Lee Dong-Gook 10
Japan Naohiro Takahara 9
Kuwait Jassem Al-Houwaidi 8
Iraq Younis Mahmoud 8
Iran Behtash Fariba 7
Iran Hossein Kalani 7
South Korea Choi Soon-Ho 7
Kuwait Faisal Al-Dakhil 7
Saudi Arabia Yasser Al-Qahtani 6
Uzbekistan Alexander Geynrikh 6
Australia Tim Cahill 6
Bahrain A'ala Hubail 5
Bahrain Ismael Abdullatif 5
Iran Ali Karimi 5
Iran Ali Jabbari 5
Japan Akinori Nishizawa 5
South Korea Woo Sang-Kwon 5
South Korea Chung Hae-Won 5
South Korea Hwang Sun-Hong 5
South Korea Koo Ja-Cheol 5
Israel Nahum Stelmach 5
China Shao Jiayi 5
United Arab Emirates Shao Jiayi 5


AFC Asian Cup fairplay awards

China China 1984
Iran Iran 1996
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 2000
China China 2004
Japan Japan 2007
South Korea South Korea 2011
Australia Australia 2015