10 of the Best: Young Stars
Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Asian Cup has showcased the Continent’s greatest players over the years, with many making their name in the competition. Next in our '10 of the Best' series, we feature talents who will arrive in the United Arab Emirates full of promise as they get set to make their tournament bow.
Four years ago in Australia, Massimo Luongo was the pick of the bunch as the Socceroo was voted the MVP, while a 20-year-old Sardar Azmoun was twice on the scoresheet for the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the 2019 edition rapidly approaches, here’s a list of 10 more youngsters to keep an eye out for.
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Nguyen Quang Hai – Vietnam
Composed in possession, aware of those around him and boasting the ability to pick out teammates in a way that few others can, Nguyen Quang Hai is the creative spark in Vietnam’s exciting young team.
The left-footed midfielder is superb from dead-ball situations, both in terms of crossing and striking from distance. He finished the second highest scorer at the AFC U23 Championship China 2018, where a ‘Goal of the Tournament’ highlight reel could have been created solely for him.
ِAbdulrahman Ghareeb – Saudi Arabia
In his first full season with the first team at club side Al Ahli, Abdulrahman Ghareeb's impact has been so powerful that the 21-year-old earned a first call-up for the friendly against Brazil in October.
The diminutive attacking midfielder then marked his full international debut with a goal against Yemen in November, cementing his place in Juan Antonio Pizzi's final squad for the UAE 2019.
Hwang In-beom – Korea Republic
Despite playing his football in K League 2, 2018 has been a breakthrough year for Hwang In-beom, whose form in helping Korea Republic win the gold medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia has seen the midfielder drafted into coach Paulo Bento’s first-team squad.
Hwang has appeared in all of the Taeguk Warriors’ matches since the Asian Games, with the East Asians remaining unbeaten and the midfielder scoring his first international goal in October’s 2-2 draw with Panama. He now looks set to take his place among his country's elite in the UAE.
Mohanad Ali – Iraq
Known for his technical ability, link-up play and drifting across the final third, Mohanad Ali is equally talented with either foot. The 18-year-old netted 17 goals in the Iraq Pro League last season and is already among the goals in the current campaign.
Ali featured in the first ever AFC U-14 Championship in 2014 and scored six goals more than any player in the competition. He went on to make his full debut in 2017 and has since won nine caps and scored five for the Lions of Mespotamia.
Ritsu Doan – Japan
Another who made his full international debut earlier in the year, Ritsu Doan is part of the next generation of Japanese players looking to make their mark at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 and Olympic Games in Tokyo the following year.
The Netherlands-based attacking midfielder is one of a number of exciting prospects who have been promoted to the first team ahead of the Continental tournament. Unbeaten in his five appearances for the East Asians, Doan also scored his first goal for Japan in October’s 4-3 victory over Uruguay.
Bassam Hisham – Qatar
هذا الموسم تقابل #الدحيل مع السد 4 مرات، تمكن فريقنا من تحقيق الفوز في ثلاث مباريات مقابل خسارة واحدة.— نادي الدحيل الرياضي (@DuhailSC) May 10, 2018
لنتذكر أحد الأهداف الرائعة في مرمى السد وكان عن طريق بسام هشام @basam_97 pic.twitter.com/sPVt7hMXAi
Young and brimming with hope, Bassam Hisham enjoyed loan spells with Celta Vigo in Spain and KAS Eupen in Belgium where he gained enough experience to hit the ground running upon his return to Qatar.
Al Duhail's player has versatility to match his quality as he has proven his class as a right-back, in the middle of the park and as a centre-back, giving Felix Sanchez the right reasons to offer him a spot in the next AFC Asian Cup.
Dostonbek Khamdamov – Uzbekistan
What a 12 months it has been for Uzbekistan's Dostonbek Khamdamov, who played a starring role in the Central Asians’ AFC U23 Championship China 2018 title-winning campaign in January before sealing a move to Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala.
The left-footed midfielder has been touted as the White Wolves' next big star since winning the 2015 AFC Young Player of the Year award on the back of an outstanding performance in helping the Uzbeks reach the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand earlier that year.
Supachai Jaided – Thailand
🤦♂️ A bad clearance by 🇸🇬 Singapore allowed Supachai Jaided to extend 🇹🇭 Thailand’s lead!— AFF Suzuki Cup (@affsuzukicup) November 25, 2018
#AFFSuzukiCup18 #TimeToShine #THAvSIN
Follow the match LIVE 👉 https://t.co/7jTNktAmov pic.twitter.com/28BmPf5Mqz
Another Southeast Asian with plenty of potential, Supachai Jaided only made his international debut earlier in the year, but already has three goals to his name – all of which came in the recent AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Championship.
The 20-year-old played and scored at the Asian Games in August, while he also made his AFC Champions League bow with Buriram United, where he has now won back-to-back league titles.
Khalfan Mubarak – United Arab Emirates
Khalfan Mubarak commands the midfield whether he plays in the centre or on the flanks. Since joining Al Jazira, he has established himself as a key man for the amount of goals he feeds the attackers.
The UAE fans are all hoping this will be the moment for Mubarak to shine on an international level and lead the country to new milestones in this tournament.
Oday Dabbagh - Palestine
An impressive 2018 began for Oday Dabbagh when he burst into the continental consciousness at January's AFC U-23 Championship in China, where he scored in three consecutive matches against DPR Korea, Thailand and Qatar as Palestine reached the last eight for the first time.
The Hilal Al Quds winger, who recently turned 20, then scored his first senior international goal in September's 1-1 friendly draw with Kyrgyz Republic, and made it into Palestine's preliminary squad for UAE 2019. Much is expected of the youngster in January.
Which of the 10 Young Stars do you think will shine brightest at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019? Cast your vote in the poll below.
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