6 Asian Games stars who can shine at UAE 2019
Kuala Lumpur: After a memorable football tournament at the Asian Games, we look at some of the talents on show at Indonesia 2018 who may be ones to watch at January's AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.
The 2018 Asian Games' football competition saw Korea Republic defeat Japan 2-1 in extra-time in an exciting climax at Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong, and eyes now turn to the biggest event in the continental game: the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Here are six players who stood out in Indonesia and will aspire to rise to even greater heights for their countries in the UAE in January. Let us know in the poll below who you think will be the one to watch.
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Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)
The Golden Boy of a young and exciting generation of Vietnamese footballers, attacking midfielder Quang Hai rose to particular prominence at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship where his five goals helped lead his nation to a runners-up finish in China PR.
Nguyen Quang Hai - Fans' #AFCU23 Best Goal
👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 THANK YOU to the 1⃣0⃣0⃣,0⃣0⃣0⃣s of Asian Football fans who voted in our poll to choose the Fans' Best #AFCU23 goal. Here's a message from the winner: 🇻🇳 Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai! "I am very happy to receive the best goal award. I would like to thank the supporters for supporting me and the team. In my opinion, all the goals in the AFC U23 Championship were very beautiful because it is the result of teamwork. Again, thank you to all the football fans."Posted by Asian Football Confederation on Friday, 2 February 2018
The 21-year-old continued his fine form in Indonesia over seven months later, scoring the only goal in an impressive 1-0 win over eventual runners-up Japan to secure top spot in Group D.
Quang Hai was part of the Vietnam side that then eliminated Bahrain and Syria to ultimately finish in fourth place, although his memories of the tournament will remain bitter sweet after missing a penalty in the shootout for the bronze medal against the United Arab Emirates.
Hwang Ui-jo (Korea Republic)
Korea Republic have struggled to find an out-and-out goalscorer to truly replace veteran striker Lee Dong-gook, but the performance of Hwang Ui-jo at the 2018 Asian Games suggests coach Paulo Bento might have a have a strong candidate for the role at UAE 2019.
A tournament-leading nine goals for the Gamba Osaka man was impressive and his form this year in Japan - 14 goals in 27 appearances - also suggests Hwang Ui-jo is approaching his prime.
Lee Seung-woo, Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan are just some of the stars who packed a stellar Korea Republic side in Indonesia, but Hwang Ui-jo's rise and, importantly, goals could be a defining moment for the Taeguk Warriors in their bid to end their 58-year AFC Asian Cup drought.
Wei Shihao (China PR)
China PR's desire for success in football is well known, with a passionate fan base eager to see their team rise up the rankings. One such starlet that some of those hopes are pinned on is exciting midfielder Wei Shihao, who was again among the goals at the Asian Games.
The 23-year-old from Anhui scored in each of China's four games in Indonesia, continuing on from a fine individual campaign at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in January.
Having broken into the senior national team at the end of 2017, Wei continues to go from strength to strength and can be expected to be in Marcello Lippi's reckoning for UAE 2019.
Kim Yu-song (DPR Korea)
Last season’s AFC Cup top goalscorer Kim Yu-song has carried his hot form in front of goal into this year's continental competitions. The 4.25 SC player was DPR Korea's leading scorer at the Asian Games and fired the side to a quarter-final finish.
Kim also has a knack for scoring at vital moments: a crucial brace against Saudi Arabia to ensure DPR Korea avoided group elimination and netting in both knockout stage rounds.
The 23-year-old has also maintained his form in continental club competition with five goals in six games in this year's AFC Cup. Should DPR Korea look to progress past the group stage of UAE 2019, Kim's form in front of goal could be a big factor.
Mohamed Al Shamsi (United Arab Emirates)
From scoring goals to denying them, United Arab Emirates custodian Mohamed Al Shamsi was undoubtedly one of the standout 'keepers from the 2018 Asian Games, helping his side to an impressive bronze medal finish.
Named best goalkeeper in the United Arab Emirates top flight last season, Al Shamsi was in superlative form in Indonesia.
Not only did the Emirati prove an excellent shot-stopper, but also a penalty shootout specialist with crucial saves against the hosts in the Round of 16, DPR Korea in the quarter-finals and Vietnam in the bronze medal play-off.
Ikromjon Alibaev (Uzbekistan)
There are plenty of players to get excited about in the young White Wolves side that turned out at the 2018 Asian Games.
Drawn from the 2018 AFC U23 Championship-winning, the likes of midfielder Odiljon Xamrobekov, full-back Akramjon Kamilov and playmaker Javokhir Sidikov all burnished their growing reputations.
Nevertheless, it was Ikromjon Alibaev - one of the overage players in the squad - who proved to be one of the standouts. The Lokomotiv midfielder was the second highest scorer in the competition, with an impressive five goals from five games, without shirking his defensive duties.
Still only 24, Alibaev could prove a vital asset for the White Wolves in their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign.
Now that you've read about some of the stars from the 2018 Asian Games, let us know in the poll below who you think will have the biggest impact at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup!
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