Who was the Asian star of the group stage?
Kuala Lumpur: After two weeks of scintillating action, the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup ended on Thursday with Japan progressing to a last 16 clash against Belgium on Monday.
Many of the Samurai Blue shone in the first round while, although departed, a number of players from Asia’s four other representatives grabbed the world’s attention. The-AFC.com has chosen five for you to vote for your standout performer.
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Daniel Arzani – Australia
Although he was only on the pitch for 60 minutes of the Socceroos’ Group C campaign, Daniel Arzani’s direct approach troubled defenders, with his standout game coming in the 1-1 draw with Denmark. The 19-year-old is undoubtedly one for the future.
Morteza Pouraliganji – Islamic Republic of Iran
Tasked with marking Spain’s Diego Costa and Portugal’s Ronaldo in Group B, no defender would have had a tougher assignment than Morteza Pouraliganji. He was outstanding in limiting their threat, with Costa grabbing a fortuitous goal and Ronaldo nullified for the first time.
Cho Hyun-woo – Korea Republic
Relatively unknown outside his homeland before the World Cup, Cho Hyun-woo was elevated from third-choice goalkeeper to first for the Group F opener with Sweden. The 26-year-old impressed, kept his place and rounded off with a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Germany.
Gaku Shibasaki – Japan
A composed presence in the Japan midfield, Gaku Shibasaki has dictated the play with impressive vision and accuracy. The Spain-based midfielder created the highest number of chances in his team as the East Asians qualified from Group H and he will be key if the Samurai Blue are to pull off a major shock against Belgium.
Salman Al Faraj – Saudi Arabia
After a difficult start against hosts Russia in Group A, Saudi Arabia and Salman Al Faraj grew into the tournament. The Al Hilal midfielder had more touches and created more chances than any other Asian player, while he also scored from the spot in the 2-1 victory over Egypt.
Now that you've had a chance to think, let us know who you believe to be the standout player in the poll below!
Photos: Getty Images
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