Ones To Watch: Group B
Kuala Lumpur: The latest graduate from the vaunted Aspire Academy, the J.League's best young player and two West Asian starlets, Group B of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 boasts a quartet of talented tyros worth looking out for.
A group that involves four of Asia's biggest sides in Qatar, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Syria is set up to be one of the most intriguing, with some of the Continent's best next generation on display.
We have selected a player from each side who could be the stand-out.
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Hassan Ahmad Palang
Qatar will be counting on Aspire Academy prodigy Hassan Ahmad Palang to deliver the goals for them in an extremely competitive looking group.
Palang's two goals secured Qatar a 2-2 draw with Oman in the Qualifiers to seal Qatar the top spot and a place in the Finals.
Having been in the limelight with his nation's various age-group teams, the 21-year-old Al Sadd forward, who is currently on loan at Al Wakrah, will look to fire Qatar to the title and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ao Tanaka enjoyed a breakout 2019 on the Continent, starting four of Kawasaki Frontale's six AFC Champions League ties. The 21-year-old also put in several impressive performances on the domestic front which saw him earn J.League Rookie of the Year.
Having already made two senior national team appearances, much is expected of Tanaka who will be expected to follow in the footsteps of veteran playmaker and clubmate Kengo Nakamura, 18 years his senior.
Saudi Arabia, Midfielder
Another who has already made his presence for both his senior national team and club side, Abdulrahman Ghareeb was a member of Saudi Arabia's 2019 AFC Asian Cup squad before scoring a sensational late winner in the 2019 AFC Champions League group stage that assured Al Ahli a place in the Knockout Stage.
A graduate of the Al Ahli academy, Ghareeb will look to famous Saudi Arabia alumni from the AFC U23 Championship with both current Saudi stars Abdullah Otayf and Abulfattah Asiri having appeared at the 2014 edition in Oman.
Abd Al Rahman Barakat
Part of the Syria squad at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China, Abd Al Rahman Barakat, 21, was the stand-out in qualifying for Syria with three goals in three games, netting in each of the ties against Kyrgyz Republic, Kuwait and Jordan.
The Al Jaish youngster need not look far for a role model for success at the AFC U23 Championship with countryman and 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khribin appearing at the 2014 and 2016 editions.
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