Kuala Lumpur: The 2019 AFC Champions League witnessed a number of young players across Asia announce their arrival in the Continent’s biggest club competition as they displayed their potential in abundance.
From fabulous goals to mature performances and even a record-breaking feat, the next generation of stars was a welcome addition to the tournament. The-AFC.com has selected six of the best, who we can look forward to seeing much more of in the future.
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1. Alaa Abbas
Club: Al Zawraa
Alaa Abbas has truly enjoyed a wonderful 2019, which began with him scoring his first-ever goal for Iraq in his country’s group stage win over Yemen at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The then 21-year-old took that form into the club season and, in the first AFC Champions League match to ever be hosted in Iraq, he netted twice in a stunning 5-0 victory over Al Wasl in front of more than 27,000 spectators at Karbala Sports City.
Abbas’ first was a blistering strike from distance, while the second showed all the attributes of a confident frontman as his cutely dinked the ball past Humaid Abdullah in the Emiratis’ goal.
He went on to score four more times and, although Al Zawraa exited at the group stage, he finished as the competition’s joint fifth highest scorer on six goals. He is ending the year as he began it, meanwhile, with goals for his country against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks.
2. Suphanut Mueanta
Club: Buriram United
Buriram United’s Suphanut Mueanta had already broken various records by the time he made his AFC Champions League debut at 16 years of age against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in March.
The Sisaket-born striker had become the youngest player to score in Thai League 1, when he was just 15, in 2018 and seemed destined to go on to bigger and better things.
After his cameo appearance against the Koreans, Suphanut was then given 15 minutes to show what he could do against Beijing FC a month later and, four minutes after coming off the bench, he found the back of the net with a cool finish to become the youngest scorer ever in the competition.
At 16 years, eight months and seven days old, he was also by some distance the youngest player to score in the 2019 edition. Further substitute appearances followed as Buriram exited at the group stage, but Suphanut’s name is undoubtedly one we can expect to hear again in the future.
3. Daiki Hashioka
Club: Urawa Red Diamonds
Urawa Red Diamonds midfielder Daiki Hashioka must have thought things couldn’t get any better when he bagged a brace on his AFC Champions League debut in a 3-0 victory over Buriram United on Matchday One.
But the reality was that it was just the beginning of a remarkable run all the way to the final for the then 19-year-old, who would ultimately make the place on Urawa’s right side his own in the knockout rounds.
A constant threat going forward but mature beyond his years at the back, Hashioka developed into one of his team’s most important and consistent players in 2019, setting up the only goal of the semi-final second leg against Guangzhou Evergrande to help secure a place in the final.
And while the J.League club’s performances over the two legs against Al Hilal were widely considered below par, Hashioka put in a pair of solid displays as he ended his first Continental competition in front of a packed Saitama Stadium.
4. Abdulrahman Al Dossari
Club: Al Nassr
Part of the Al Nassr squad that won the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League title, Abdulrahman Al Dossari helped the Riyadh club progress from the group stage in what was their first appearance since 2016.
Indeed, from Matchday Three onwards, the midfielder began every game on the Continent as Al Nassr advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Al Dossari’s finest moment came when he fired home an equaliser against Al Sadd in front of the delighted home support at King Fahd International Stadium in the first leg of the quarter-finals, before the Saudis ultimately exited at the hands of the Doha side.
His performances did not go unnoticed by Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard, meanwhile, as Al Dossari was selected for the Green Falcons squad for the recent jFIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers.
5. Safawi Rasid
Club: Johor Darul Ta’zim
Already a star name in Malaysia following a string of excellent performances with the national team, Safawi Rasid made his first foray into the AFC Champions League this year as JDT became the first side from the Southeast Asian country to appear in the tournament.
The forward’s debut actually came on his 22nd birthday in JDT’s hard-fought 2-1 loss away at defending champions Kashima Antlers as the Malaysian side showed they were no pushovers.
Safawi’s finest moment then arrived in China on Matchday Three when, receiving the ball on the right flack, he cut inside and curled a stunning effort from fully 30 yards into the top right corner in a 2-1 loss.
A fine creator of chances with an eye for the spectacular, Safawi continued to display his talent as JDT exited at the group stage after a promising debut campaign. Having won the 2019 Malaysian Super League, we can expect to plenty more of him in the 2020 AFC Champions League.
6. Kim Dae-won
Club: Daegu FC
Korea Republic FA Cup winners in 2018, Daegu FC were another tournament debutant this year and they took the competition by storm in their opening matches.
Part of the side that claimed a 3-1 away win at Melbourne Victory on Matchday One, Kim Dae-won truly announced his arrival against two-time champions Guangzhou Evergrande a week later.
The forward created Edgar Silva’s opening goal with a beautifully weighted delivery into the box before rounding off a 3-1 victory with a deflected effort that went beyond goalkeeper Zeng Cheng and into the bottom left corner.
Kim saved his best individual moment for the return meeting with Melbourne, though, picking up the ball to the right of the penalty area, turning back and firing left footed into the top right corner with one of the most memorable goals of the tournament.
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