Let’s start with the disappointing but necessary information – the Russian Football Union (RFU) can not just take and leave the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in the AFC. Such a step requires the permission of the International Football Federation (FIFA). If our football continues to be subject to large-scale sanctions and the RFU is expelled from FIFA or the membership of the organization is frozen, then no transition to Asia will take place.
A change of confederation is possible if FIFA has no claims to the RFU, and European teams begin to abandon games with the Russian national team, as did the Poles, Swedes and Czechs in the qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup.
Then we can repeat the path of Israel – only in the opposite direction. In the mid-1970s, the Israelis were forced to leave the AFC for political reasons, played in Oceania for some time, and have been full members of UEFA since 1994.
There is a more recent example of the Australian team, which left Oceania for Asia in 2006, but not because of politics, but because of too little competition in its geographical confederation.
Silk Road at the World Cup
To design the results of the Russian national team, you can focus on the Australians. In the FIFA rankings, we are close to each other – the Russians are 36th, and the “soccer” is 42nd.
The backbone of the Australian team is made up of legionnaires who play in Europe, but in clubs not the highest level – such as the Turkish “Giresunspor”, the Danish “Odense” and the Scottish “Celtic”. It seems that most of the players of the Russian national team would look quite organic in such teams, if they decided to leave the RPL.
And the performances of the Australians at the last world championships are similar to the results of the Russian national team. Three times “soccer” stopped at the group stage, and in 2006 reached the final, where they lost to future champions, the Italians. The Russians have missed two World Cups in the same period (in 2006 and 2010), one missed the group (2014) and a home quarterfinal.
In general, we start from the history of Australians in Asia and immediately get the good news – with the selection for the World Cup in the AFC, the Russians would not have serious problems. The Australian national team began to play steadily at the World Cup after the transition to the Asian Confederation.
In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the Australians won their group by a margin (five points ahead of the Japanese), in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup they had a little harder – took second place behind the Japanese team (due to defeat away from the Jordanians and a large number of draws ), but still qualified for the tournament in Brazil.
At the 2018 World Cup, the Australians were selected for Russia with great adventures. They became the third in their group and were forced to win a ticket in the clashes with the Syrian team. The victory was not without difficulty – in the first match, which took place in Malaysia (in Damascus for obvious reasons failed to play), there was a draw, and in the return match in Sydney, the Syrians led, but Tim Cahill two goals pulled the Australians to the World Cup.
By the way, the ticket to the 2022 World Cup “soccer” has not yet earned – they again took third place in the group (very far behind the teams of Saudi Arabia and Japan), and in June they will face a match against the UAE, after a possible victory in which will still need to pass the Peruvians.
However, it will be much easier for the Australians (and maybe the Russians?) To get to the 2026 World Cup – due to the increase in the number of participants, eight Asian teams will go to the United States, Mexico and Canada. At the same time, UEFA will have only 16 tickets. The way through AFC looks much easier.
The Asian Cup will only be available from 2027
Even if the RFU’s transition to Asia takes place in the near future, the Russian national team will be able to compete for the local cup only in five years. The fact is that the qualification for the 2023 Asian Championship has already begun, it is unlikely to get involved in the already launched process. And the next tournament will be only in 2027.
But there are some nice nuances – the host of the Asian Cup – 2027 has not yet been determined. Russia may well apply for it.
For the last 18 years, Russians have been steadily participating in the Euro, and there will be even fewer problems with getting into the Asian tournament. Since 2019, 24 teams have participated in it, high-level teams only need to take first place in one of the simple qualifying groups. The Australians, for example, got to the 2019 spacecraft after being ahead of the national teams of Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Bangladesh. The Russians can clearly repeat this.
You can dream of a continental trophy, but do not be fooled. In Asia, too, there is a lot of competition and incredible things are happening, such as the victory of the Iraqi national team in the 2007 spacecraft. In 2011, the Asian Cup was won by the Japanese, in 2015 – the Australians (for them it was a home tournament), and KA-2019 sensationally won the national team of Qatar.
Four teams in the Champions League
The national team has been sorted out, but clubs will have to be transferred from Europe to Asia. Zenit, Spartak, CSKA and others will have to get used to Asian tournaments. And here our teams are waiting for many discoveries.
The system of club competitions in the AFC is significantly different from the European one. Not all federations are allowed to participate in the local Champions League. From the countries of the former USSR, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are represented here, and Kyrgyz clubs play only in the AFC Cup (similar to the Europa League).
Almost all Asian giants are not sprayed for the junior tournament – it does not play Japanese, Chinese, South Korean and Australian clubs, teams from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Of course, with such a system, there are no transitions between the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup. Here you can not take third place in the group of the main tournament and go to the playoffs of the junior.
If the Russian national team retains the FIFA rating in the event of a possible change of confederation, the coefficients of RPL clubs from UEFA will not be transported. Although this should not be a big problem for Asia. The Australians immediately won two places in the Champions League after moving from Oceania, and no one forced them to earn rating points in AFC Cup matches.
If successful, you can significantly expand your representation in the Champions League. In the 2022 season, Australia was represented by four teams in the main club tournament in Asia, as well as China, Japan, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Thailand. RPL clubs should pull the level of the Thai league.
Asia is scary with incredible spaces, but in reality everything is not so scary. The Champions League and the AFC Cup are divided by geographical areas, it is not necessary to fly too far in the group stage and in the early stages of the playoffs.
If they move to Asia, Russian clubs will end up in the western region, which includes the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, India and Iran. And the road from Moscow or St. Petersburg to Dubai is no longer than a flight to Lisbon. It will be possible to cross paths with Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Australian clubs only in the final.
This circumstance significantly facilitates the road to the trophy, because rivals from the Far East look more powerful. Although the current winner of the AFC Champions League is Saudi Al-Hilal, so Arab teams crammed with stellar veterans should not be underestimated.
The latest fact about the Asian Champions League will greatly please supporters of returning to the “spring – autumn” system. The AFC main event usually starts in February-March and ends in November. That is, the old calendar is the best way to participate in it. In the autumn the club registers for the RPL championship, and in the spring the AFC Champions League starts – beauty!
The transfer of the RFU from UEFA to the AFC no longer looks pure fiction, but it must be understood that Israel and Australia have moved from a weaker company to a stronger one when the confederations change. We, with all due respect to the Asian teams and clubs, are talking about the way in the opposite direction. It is very doubtful that such a transition will contribute to the development of Russian football.