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Vote for your best 2020 AFC Champions League Team: Defenders


Kuala Lumpur: With the dust settling on Ulsan Hyundai FC lifting the title for the second time, we continue our search for the 2020 AFC Champions League Best XI with our focus on the defensive stalwarts.

Last week we presented the candidates for the 2020 edition's best goalkeeper, and now we shine the spotlight on the players who will make up the backline.

So, here are the 14 players in contention for the four places in defence. Review the nominees and then choose your favourite defenders for this all-star XI in the respective polls.

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RIGHT-BACKS

Wang Gang - Beijing FC, CHN

  • 2 assists (2nd best overall)
  • 91.7% tackle success rate
  • 7 chances created

Wang Gang was a key figure in Beijing FC's backline, winning 11 of his 12 tackles as the Chinese Super League club advanced to their first-ever quarter-final appearance, before losing 2-0 to eventual champions Ulsan Hyundai FC.

The 31-year-old China PR international also had an impact in the opposition half, where he created seven chances in six appearances, picking up two assists along the way.


Sultan Al Ghannam - Al Nassr, KSA

  • 4 assists (Best overall record)
  • 12 chances created (2nd best overall)
  • 19 interceptions

Sultan Al Ghannam impressed on the Continental stage with the best overall record of four assists as the 26-year-old played a crucial role in Al Nassr's 2020 campaign, creating 12 chances in eight appearances.

The defender was at his best when Al Nassr beat Saudi Pro League rivals Al Ahli Saudi FC in the quarter-finals, where he was named the Man of the Match.


Seol Young-woo - Ulsan Hyundai FC, KOR

  • 2 chances created
  • 7 interceptions
  • 15 duels won

Out of the four nominees for the right-back position, Seol Young-woo recorded the least time on the field with 257 minutes played. The 22-year-old, however, maximised the opportunity to impress on the Continental stage.

Defensively, Seol made seven interceptions and won 15 of his 24 duels, and also proved his worth offensively by creating two chances for Ulsan Hyundai.


Ko Kwang-min - FC Seoul, KOR

  • 6 tackles won
  • 27 crosses in open play (2nd best overall)
  • 40 duels won

Ko Kwang-min impressed with his decision making in a tough campaign for FC Seoul, making six successful tackles and winning more than half of his duels.

The Korea Republic international also has an eye for opportunity, as he made 27 open play crosses, with only Persepolis' Saeid Aghaei attempting more.



CENTRE-BACKS

Yu Yang - Beijing FC, CHN

  • 5 blocks, 14 headed clearances (Best overall record)
  • 91.3% passing accuracy
  • 13 interceptions

One of the central figures for Beijing FC, Yu Yang was outstanding in their 2020 campaign, making six appearances with 334 passes completed.

Yu Yang made more blocks (5) and headed clearances (14) than any other player in the Beijing squad, and added with 13 interceptions, it is no surprise the China PR international was among the top centre-backs in the 2020 AFC Champions League.


Min Sang-gi - Suwon Samsung Bluewings, KOR

  • 100% tackle success rate
  • 86.9% passing accuracy
  • 3 chances created

Min Sang-gi was one of Suwon Samsung Bluewings' most dependable players, winning all three of his tackles as well as holding the highest passing accuracy in the team.

Min also recorded the highest number of headed clearances (10) and blocks (4) for Suwon.


Hossein Kanaani - Persepolis FC, IRN

  • 491 successful passes
  • 17 interceptions

In Persepolis' journey to the 2020 AFC Champions League final, Hossein Kanaani only missed one game, totalling 795 minutes of playing time. His 491 completed passes ranked the 26-year-old among the top six players who achieved such a record in 2020.

No other player in Persepolis made more interceptions (17) than the Islamic Republic of Iran international. Most notably, Kanaani stood out in Persepolis' clash against Al Sadd in the Round of 16, earning him the match MVP.


Kim Min-jae - Beijing FC, CHN

  • 80% tackle success rate
  • 18 interceptions
  • 92.6% passing accuracy
  • 19 duels won

Kim Min-jae has been a player to watch since his exploits with Korea Republic in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, and it was no surprise he continued to impress with Beijing FC in the 2020 AFC Champions League.

Kim won four of his five tackles, recorded 18 interceptions and held the highest passing accuracy on the team.


Kim Kee-hee - Ulsan Hyundai FC, KOR

  • 1 goal scored
  • 3 chances scored
  • 492 passes (2nd best overall)
  • 18 interceptions

Kim Kee-hee is player who is effective not only on the backline, but upfront as well as he created three chances for Ulsan and even etched his name of the scoresheet against Shanghai Shenhua in the group stage.

Among defenders, the 31-year-old made the second most passes in the entire tournament and won five out of seven tackles.


Shojae Khalilzadeh - Persepolis FC, IRN

  • 2 goals scored (Best overall record)
  • 476 successful passes
  • 78 possession won (Best overall record)

Shojae Khalilzadeh was a standout performer in Persepolis' campaign. With nine appearances and 840 minutes played, he was the only defender to score more than once in the 2020 edition.

The Iran international also completed more passes than any other player in the tournament, and holds the record of being the only player to marshall the Persepolis defence to five clean sheets.




LEFT-BACKS

Theerathon Bunmathan - Yokohama F. Marinos, JPN

  • 1 goal scored, 1 assist
  • 9 chances created
  • 75% tackle success rate

Yokohama F. Marinos made club history by reaching their first-ever Round of 16 in the 2020 edition, and there is no doubt that Theerathon Bunmanthan was a crucial piece in that equation.

In six appearances, the Thailand international created a team-high nine chances, had an assist to his name and scored a sizzler against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Group H, which earned him the match MVP honour.


Li Lei - Beijing FC, CHN

  • 90.9% tackle success rate
  • 21 crosses in open play
  • 58 duels won

Li Lei proved to be one of Beijing FC's most reliable defenders, as he won 10 of his 11 tackles in seven appearances stretching 551 minutes.

The 28-year-old also made 21 open play crosses and won 58 duels, which was more than any other defender in the Beijing FC squad.


Gotoku Sakai - Vissel Kobe, JPN

  • 6 chances created, 1 assist
  • 15 successful tackles
  • 41 duels won

A quick glance at Gotoku Sakai's statistics will show how proactive he had been for Vissel Kobe in the 2020 AFC Champions League. The American-born Japanese defender created six chances and made one assist.

No Vissel Kobe player made more tackles than Sakai's 15 with teammate Ryuho Kikuchi (42) the only one to have won more duels than Sakai's 41.


Saeid Aghaei - Persepolis FC, IRN

  • 3 assists
  • 9 chances created
  • 41 crosses from open play (Best overall record)
  • 76.5% tackle success rate, 15 interceptions

Saeid Aghaei was a mainstay in the Persepolis lineup, appearing in all but one match. The 25-year-old racked up three assists with only three other players having created more goals in the 2020 edition - Jonathan Viera, Teruhito Nakagawa and Sultan Al Ghannam (all on four assists).

Aghaei was always on the lookout for opportunities, making 41 open play crosses - more than any other player in 2020 - and also fulfilled his defensive duties by winning 13 of his 17 tackles, as well as making 15 interceptions.



The poll has ended. The Best XI chosen by fans and the Best XI based on the 2020 statistics will be announced on January 26.

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