By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Layup Drill heads into December with the World Cup, a new UFC Champion, and an update on Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Year voting.
Japan cleans up Group E in World Cup
Team Japan is having one of the best runs in the World Cup as it ousted Germany and Spain to make it to the “knockout round” against Croatia. Japan was not thought of as a team that would win its pool play, especially with former men’s World Cup winner Germany and perennial power Spain in its group. Nevertheless, Japan came back to defeat Germany in one of the biggest upsets in the World Cup being held in Qatar this year.
In its opening match of the World Cup against Germany, Japan down 1-0 in the waning time scored two goals in eight minutes to defeat the heavily favored Germans. Ritsu Doan, a 24-year-old winger that plays for the German Bundesliga club SC Freiburg, scored the equalizer in the 75th minute of the 90-minute match. Then, Takuma Asuna, another Bundesliga player scored in the 83rd minute. The 2014 World Cup Champions were ousted and subsequently eliminated from the tournament due in part to the upset.
After the celebration of the upset, the Japanese fans, known for their manners, cleaned up the litter around their seats in the stadium.
Unfortunately, Team Japan could not follow up on its group play success as it lost in dramatic fashion to Croatia on penalty kicks after a tie throughout the 90 minute match and extra time.
South Korea advances in thrilling fashion
The South Korean team advanced to the quarterfinals in the World Cup with a thrilling win over Portugal and famed player Cristiano Ronaldo. With the two teams in a deadlock into extra time, Hwang Hee-Chan was able to break open and slide a shot by the goalkeeper for the winning goal. The 26-year-old Hwang is a forward for the Premier League Wolverhammpton Wanderers, in addition to his time for the South Korean National Team.
After the match, the players ran to the middle of the field to celebrate the victory and moved on to the quarterfinals against the odds-on favorite to win the World Cup, Brazil.
Showing its Championship pedigree, Brazil throttled South Korea in the quarterfinals 4-1.
This World Cup is the first time that three Asian teams have made it to the round of 16 in its history: Australia (which is being considered part of Asia for the World Cup), Japan, and South Korea.
South Korean footballer gains attention for good looks
Cho Gue-sung, one of the South Korean players on the national team, became a social media darling during the first couple of weeks of the World Cup. After scoring two goals in South Korea’s win over Ghana, Cho’s popularity grew. His Instagram account had 20,000 followers prior to the World Cup and it now has 1.6 million. This social media fame grew despite the fact that he has not posted anything on his account since July. And while his play for the team has helped them into the next round, it’s his handsome looks that have garnered attention.
A short clip of him on social media sitting on the bench during a World Cup match has been watched by 7.3 million viewers. The 24-year-old has drawn over 193 million views for the hashtag #choguesung on TikTok.
The attention is so overwhelming that Cho has turned off his phone. He has been inundated with a flood of messages day and night that he’s had to make the move to focus on the World Cup.
And while Cho was not considered a soccer star prior to the World Cup, his appeal on the sport’s biggest stage is likely propelling the man with boy-next-door good looks to opportunities on and off the field.
Zhang recaptures UFC crown
Weili Zhang regained the UFC women’s strawweight champion this past November with a win over Carla Esparza at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It is Zhang’s second title reign as champion of the 125-pound women’s division. Previously, she won the belt in August 2019 and lost it in April 2021 to Rose Namajunas. She lost a rematch of the fight in November 2021.
After Namajunas dropped the title to Esparza, Zhang had another shot at the title. She earned the victory by a rear-naked choke submission in the second round of the championship fight.
Steven Kwan finishes in top 3 in Rookie of the Year voting
Cleveland Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez was the winner of the American League Rookie of the Year Award receiving 29 of the 30 first place votes cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman placed second and received the other first place vote.
Kwan received 10 second place votes and 14 3rd place votes. Kwan’s season was a success as he contributed to the Guardians at the plate with his batting average, on-base percentage, and defense in the outfield. Kwan said he did not expect his role with Cleveland to be as big as it was at the beginning of the year. He also received a Gold Glove for his outstanding defense in left field.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.