Japan's quarterfinal exit from the Asian Cup in Qatar may have been a predictable end to the tournament for a team that never lived up to its billing as favorites.

Before a ball had been kicked, some of the team's Europe-based stars had openly questioned the scheduling of a competition that forced them to leave their clubs at a crucial stage of the season.

Their comments reflected the dilemma for Japan at a time of unprecedented success for the country's players in overseas leagues. Whether they were unwilling or unable, some squad members did not seem fully focused on the ill-timed continental competition.