Five young guns set to shine in France
Kuala Lumpur: All five of Asia’s representatives at FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 have their share of top-level international experience, but a legion of a new stars are ready to leave their mark on the game’s biggest stage.
With one week until the Finals, the-AFC.com highlights five talented youngsters, all appearing in their first senior World Cup, to keep an eye on in France.
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19, Defender, Australia
She may have only turned 19 a month ago, but Carpenter is already an international football veteran, with 31 caps under her belt, major tournament experience at both the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and the honour of being the youngest player to appear in America’s National Women’s Soccer League.
A marauding full-back who seemingly never stops running, Carpenter’s first-team-regular status in the Matildas line-up has coincided with a strong period of on and off-field growth for the team now ranked sixth in the world.
Fans in Australia, and the US, have already seen what the most experienced teenager in world football can do; now it’s the rest of the world’s turn.
21, Goalkeeper, China PR
Athletic and composed, Peng steadily rose through the ranks as a youth international, but she surprised many by not only earning selection the 2019 AFC Women’s Asian Cup but playing every minute of China PR’s campaign.
A commanding penalty-area presence, the 182cm shot-stopper is also comfortable with the ball at her feet and can be relied upon to distribute the ball calmly and accurately when playing out from the back.
The Steel Roses have never quite settled on a number one goalkeeper in recent years, but Peng has started two of their last three matches and appears set to feature on the international stage for many years to come.
22, Midfielder, Japan
In a squad bursting with potential, Hasegawa has already shown her quality and consistency, becoming a regular, and crucial feature of Asako Takakura’s side since making her debut in 2017.
代表合宿開始✌️ pic.twitter.com/YlbPnXAa5W— Yui Hasegawa/長谷川唯 (@maybe10_) May 23, 2019
Hasegawa is busy, creative and looks every bit an international veteran, playing a key role in Japan’s 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup triumph, and recently hitting the back of the net against both Brazil and Germany to take her tally to eight goals in 35 appearances in the Nadeshiko shirt.
Already a world champion at the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup – a tournament in which Hasegawa claimed the Silver Ball for second best player – the NTV Beleza livewire appears poised to show the world just how good a player she is in France.
22, Forward, Korea Republic
Son initially came to prominence as the star of her country’s 2015 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship campaign, scoring four goals, including two against China PR in the 4-0 third-place play-off win which secured FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup qualification.
She scored twice on her senior international debut against Myanmar the following year, but that milestone preceded a period where she struggled to secure a regular place in the side, and only received 10 minutes of playing time in last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
But Son has since featured much more prominently, bagging four goals at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, and another against World Cup-bound Argentina this February to seemingly time her run to the world stage to perfection, and announce herself as the youngster to watch in Yoon Duk-yeo’s side.
22, Forward, Thailand
Born in California to an American mother and a Thai father, Nildhamrong scored on her international debut against Palestine in April 2017 and has gone on to become not only a regular goal scorer, but – by virtue of her fluent English and colourful backstory - arguably the international face of the Thailand side.
Also known as Miranda Nild, the physically imposing forward was highly effective in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, scoring twice in a 6-1 romp against Jordan, before regularly turning provider for her teammates in the 3-1 win over the Philippines which secured Thailand’s ticket to France.
Nildhamrong returned to California for college exams immediately after the Philippines match – missing the Jordan 2018 semi-final as a result - but with her studies now completed, the exciting forward is ready to take on the world, starting with a dream fixture against the United States.
Photos: AFC, AFP
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