10 of the Best: Goal Threats
Kuala Lumpur: As the 24 teams battle for the Continental crown in January, goals will be the most valuable currency. The-AFC.com kicks off our weekly Asian Cup UAE 2019 series '10 of the Best' with a look at 10 target men whose nations will rely on to deliver the goals.
UAE's Ali Mabkhout nipped the top scorer award in 2015 with five goals. But with the tournament expanded from 16 to 24 teams this time around, the goals race is set to be even more heated. Here are a selection of leading candidates who could take the mantle from the Emirati this January.
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Ahmed Khalil - United Arab Emirates
Ahmed Khalil's four goals helped the UAE finish third in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. The 28-year-old striker continued scoring for fun.
Only Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Sahlawi (14) scored more goals than Khalil's 11 in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers and he finds himself just three goals short of Adnan Al Talyani's record of 52 goals for the Whites.
Sardar Azmoun - Islamic Republic of Iran
For years touted as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s “golden boy”, Sardar Azmoun will turn 24 just before the AFC Asian Cup starts and now is the time for him to step to the fore.
The Russia-based forward has an excellent scoring record for Team Melli and netted twice in four games in Australia four years ago.
Hwang Ui-jo - Korea Republic
Hwang Ui-jo comes into the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 after a 2018 season where he displayed electric form for both club and country.
The 26-year-old striker followed up an impressive gold-medal winning 2018 Asian Games campaign - where he scored nine goals in seven appearances - by finishing as Gamba Osaka's Top Scorer and MVP in the 2018 J.League season with 21 goals.
Omar Al Soma - Syria
Although he is 29 years old, Omar Al Soma didn't make his competitive debut for Syria until 2017, in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Qatar. He has since scored seven goals in 17 appearances.
At club level, Al Soma was the Saudi Pro League top scorer for three consecutive seasons, averaging over one goal per match in Al Ahli colours.
Andrew Nabbout - Australia
Having only made his Australia debut less than a year ago, Urawa Red Diamonds forward Andrew Nabbout will look to fill the gaping hole left in the attack by the retirement of legend Tim Cahill.
Nabbout has frequently been used as a striker at club and country level, offering Australia a quick and skillful option up front. However, the Saitama-based star is equally adept out wide on the left flank and his versatility in the attacking areas could cause opponents a real headache.
Takumi Minamino - Japan
Takumi Minamino's return to the Japan national side, after a three-year absence, has proved quite the revelation. In five appearances in 2018, the Red Bull Salzburg forward has netted four times, including twice in a famous 4-3 win over heavyweights Uruguay.
Tipped by no less than 2000 AFC Asian Cup-winning coach Philippe Troussier as a candidate for Top Scorer at AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the 23-year-old will be one to keep a close eye on.
Sunil Chhetri - India
We look back at 5️⃣ of the best AFC Cup Knockout Stage goals, beginning with this cracker from @chetrisunil11!— AFC Cup (@AFCCup) July 23, 2018
Vote for your favourite now! 👉 https://t.co/dJ72FkvcdD#AFCCup2018 pic.twitter.com/W0mz2sV0Rx
In terms of active players, only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more international goals than India's Sunil Chhetri, who is tied with Lionel Messi on 65 in the all-time list.
Two of Chhetri's tally came in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and he will be looking to add to that number in the 2019 edition. A highly technical forward, the 34-year-old will be the man the Blue Tigers look to for inspiration and goals.
A scoring rate of a goal every two games for his country makes Teerasil Dangda undoubtedly Thailand’s biggest goal threat.
Teerasil was part of the War Elephants’ squad when they last appeared, in 2007, and the Japan-based striker returns looking to fire them into the knockout rounds for the first time since 1972.
Phil Younghusband - Philippines
Captain. Leader. Legend. Phil Younghusband has been a fixture in the Philippines national team since 2006, and his long service to the Azkals cause is set to be rewarded by leading the team out on Asia's grandest stage.
The skipper, still only 31, has scored 52 goals in over a century of appearances of his nation and remains the man who will lead the forward line for the debutants.
Almoez Ali - Qatar
Twelve months after he took the continent by storm at U23 level, Almoez Ali hopes to replicate his goalscoring exploits which saw him named the top scorer at the AFC U23 Championship.
The 22-year-old impressed for Al Duhail, scoring twice and creating four more goals to help them reach the 2018 AFC Champions League semi-finals.
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