Vote for your best ever AFC Asian Cup midfielder
Kuala Lumpur: We are less than a hundred days away from January's AFC Asian Cup 2019, and the-AFC.com continues its series of articles to determine your all-time best AFC Asian Cup side.
You cast well over a million votes for your best-ever AFC Asian Cup forward, and now it's time to turn our attention to midfielders.
So, here are 10 candidates for the spots at the middle of the park. Review the nominees and then choose your favourite midfielders to set the tempo for this all-star XI in the poll below.
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Kim Joo-sung - Korea Republic
Most Valuable Player - 1988 AFC Asian Cup
For three successive years between 1989 and 1991, Kim Joo-sung was named the Asian Footballer of the Year for his outstanding displays on the pitch.
The pinnacle of his continental performances came in the 1988 AFC Asian Cup in which he guided Korea Republic to the final, where penalty shoot-outs favoured Saudi Arabia to deny the Taeugk Warriors the trophy.
Kim was named the tournament's MVP in 1988 and went on to play in Germany in the mid 1990s. He also represented his country in three FIFA World Cups and played in the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Fahad Al Harifi - Saudi Arabia
Top Scorer - 1992 AFC Asian Cup
One of Saudi Arabia's brightest midfield talents in the 1980s and 90s, Fahad Al Harifi scored the winning penalty in the final as the Green Falcons were crowned continental champions in his first major tournament at the 1988 AFC Asian Cup.
In the following edition, he bagged three goals to become the competition's top scorer, leading Saudi Arabia to a second consecutive AFC Asian Cup final, although this time they were defeated by Japan.
A one-club man who spent his entire career at Al Nassr, Al Harifi was a key part of the Saudi national team that earned their best ever World Cup performance, reaching the Round of 16 in 1994.
Shunsuke Nakamura - Japan
Most Valuable Player - 2004 AFC Asian Cup
One of the most globally recognised Japanese players, Shunsuke Nakamura's rise as a midfield maestro coincided with a golden era for the Samurai Blue around the turn of the century.
Nakamura won the 2000 AFC Asian Cup as a youngster, and in 2004 not only did he help his country to a second title in a row, he was also named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. A third and final continental appearance in 2007 saw Nakamura and company finish fourth.
A successful four-year spell at Celtic saw the left-footed midfielder become the first Japanese player to score in the UEFA Champions League and his performances in Europe earned him a Ballon d'Or nomination in 2007.
Shao Jiayi - China PR
Team of the tournament - 2004 AFC Asian Cup
A key player in the only China PR team to have qualified to the FIFA World Cup in 2002, Shao Jiayi spent the majority of his career representing German clubs.
On home soil, Shao took his country to a historic milestone reaching the AFC Asian Cup final for the first time in their history in 2004.
With three goals in the tournament and a world class performance against IR Iran in the semi-final, which saw him score one goal and net the winning penalty, Shao earned his place in the 2004 Team of the Tournament.
Ali Karimi - IR Iran
Top Scorer - 2004 AFC Asian Cup (joint)
Islamic Republic of Iran have not reached the AFC Asian Cup final since 1976, yet the last time they earned a place in the semi-finals, Ali Karimi was their talisman.
Karimi bagged five goals in the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, leading IR Iran to third place in the competition.His goals included an unforgettable hat-trick against Korea Republic in the quarter-finals.
The midfielder was named Asian Player of Year and was included in team of the tournament in the same year, earning a move to German giants Bayern Munich.
Nashat Akram - Iraq
Team of the tournament - 2007 AFC Asian Cup
What Iraq achieved in 2007 is arguably the most shocking triumph in the history of the AFC Asian Cup and the quality of football produced by their star Nashat Akram was a key driver behind it.
The continental title was the zenith of a career that saw Akram become an Asian champion at the U-19 level in 2000 before narrowly missing out on an Olympic medal, as Iraq finished fourth in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Akram bagged the opening goal against Australia in the group stage to record Iraq's first victory in the competition and after their undefeated streak towards the trophy, the midfielder was named in the team of the tournament.
Harry Kewell - Australia
Team of the tournament - 2011 AFC Asian Cup
After joining the Asian Football Confederation, Harry Kewell was the main man as Australia reached the quarter-finals on their AFC Asian Cup debut in 2007.
In the following edition not only did they take part in the competition, they reached the final in Qatar thanks to Kewell's three goals and he was named in the team of the tournament for his virtuoso efforts.
By the time the Socceroos were crowned continental champions in 2015, Kewell had retired. But he remains remembered as one of the nation's greatest ever players, with a 15-year career in Europe culminating in the 2005 UEFA Champions League title in Liverpool colours.
Server Djeparov - Uzbekistan
Team of the tournament - 2011 AFC Asian Cup
Uzbekistan only reached the top four in an AFC Asian Cup once and Server Djeparov was one of the instrumental reasons behind that success.
Djeparov guided his nation to the semi-final in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup scoring two goals and assisting as many, as he was named in team of the tournament and in the same year won AFC Asian Player of the Year for the second time.
With over a century of caps for his nation, Djeparov has also gathered huge experience in Asian football on club level, representing teams in Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, IR Iran in addition to his native Uzbekistan.
Keisuke Honda - Japan
Most Valuable Player - 2011 AFC Asian Cup
Keisuke Honda was at his absolute best when he led his nation to their fourth continental trophy in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Honda was named Most Valuable Player in the competition after decisive performances from midfield.
In a decade of representing the Samurai Blue, Honda became the only Japanese player to score in three FIFA World Cups and scored 37 international goals, the fourth highest in Japan's history.
Koo Ja-cheol - Korea Republic
Top Scorer - 2011 AFC Asian Cup
Should Koo Ja-cheol get a call-up and score in the UAE in January 2019, he could be one of the few players to have scored in three consecutive AFC Asian Cups.
Five goals marked the path of the Korea Republic midfielder to become the 2011 AFC Asian Cup top scorer as the Taeguk Warriors finished third.
An injury ended his 2015 AFC Asian Cup prematurely, but not before Koo got his name on the scoresheet with a goal against Oman in the opening match. The 29-year-old played and scored for Korea Republic in the 2012 Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup two years later.
Now that you've seen all 10 star midfielders, vote for your best in the poll and secure them a place in the all-time AFC Asian Cup line-up.
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