Ones to Watch: Wu Lei (China PR)
Kuala Lumpur: Already a legend at club level with Shanghai SIPG, 27-year-old Wu Lei is looking to emulate his goal-scoring exploits in China PR colours at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in January.
Although he has never played his club football abroad, Wu Lei is widely regarded as one of the top players to have emerged from China PR over the past decade. His two nominations of the AFC Player of the Year award - he finished third in both 2016 and 2017 - are testament to his status in Asian football.
Nationality: China PR
Date of birth: 19/11/1991
Current club: Shanghai SIPG
Previous clubs: None
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Having impressed for three seasons at Shanghai SIPG, Wu Lei earned his first China PR call-up under coach Gao Hongbo in 2010, but upon the appointment of Jose Antonio Camacho as coach, he lost his spot in the team, only making his second international appearance in 2013.
After breaking his international duck against Australia in July 2013, Wu Lei never looked back, going on to make 57 appearances and score 12 goals in the process.
The winger goes into the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 as the nation's standout player, having been a squad player four years earlier in Australia.
Style of play
Often deployed at left wing, Wu Lei is capable of playing as a right winger or an out and out striker. His combination of pace, intelligent movement and clinical finishing enabled him to deliver double-digit goals for his club for nine consecutive seasons.
Wu Lei's 12 goals for China PR mean he is still some way of the country's all-time top scorer Hao Haidong (41), but he is just six goals away from breaking into the top 10 historic strikers.
What to look for
After reaching the final on home soil in 2004, China PR's continental results have been underwhelming, exiting at the group stage twice and reaching the quarter-finals once. But with an experienced coach in Marcelo Lippi and players as talented as Wu Lei, they will be keen to leave their mark at UAE 2019.
Where and when to watch him
China PR vs Kyrgyz Republic
Venue: Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Kick-off: January 7, 15:00 UTC+4
Philippines v China PR
Venue: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: January 11, 17:30 UTC+4
China PR vs Korea Republic
Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Kick-off: January 16, 17:30 UTC+4
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