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AFC National Team Player of the Week

Kuala Lumpur: With a handful of Asia’s top national sides in action for the first time in 2020, attention this week has turned to the international game, where some of the continent’s biggest names reminded us of what we’ve been missing.

In a departure from our usual weekly poll, we’ve narrowed down the best performers from the various international matches featuring Asian sides over the last week, now it’s up to you to decide who was Asia’s standout player over the international break.

Here are our eight nominees:

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Almoez Ali (Qatar)
80 minutes, 1 goal (1-5 v Ghana)

It was a match which won’t be remembered fondly by the Asian champions – who slumped to a 5-1 defeat against Ghana - but Almoez Ali still produced a moment of genuine quality for Felix Sanchez’s side.

In Qatar’s first match of the year, Ali’s inventive, individual goal was the Al Duhail forward’s 26th at international level; a haul which has come in the space of just three years; even with an extended gap in 2020.

Sardar Azmoun (IR Iran)
75 minutes, 1 goal (2-1 v Uzbekistan)

Another of Asia’s top strikers celebrated his return to the international stage by finding the back of net, with IR Iran’s Sardar Azmoun playing a key role in his side’s 2-1 win over Uzbekistan last Thursday.

The Zenit Saint-Petersburg star was arguably the best known of the Iranian arrivals in Tashkent, and he lived up to his billing when he rocketed the ball past Eldor Suyunov from 25 yards just before half-time, helping Team Melli to a first win under new head coach Dragan Skočić.

Ali Gholizadeh (IR Iran)
75 minutes, 1 assist (2-1 v Uzbekistan)

Supplying the pass for Azmoun’s strike was Ali Gholizadeh, who continued his terrific recent club form with a fine display for his country.

The Belgium-based attacking midfielder emerged as one of the best performers on the night and would have had two assists had Azmoun not missed an even better chance in the early stages of the clash.

Mehdi Taremi (IR Iran)
72 minutes, 1 goal (2-1 v Uzbekistan)

He may be yet to open his account at new club FC Porto, but Mehdi Taremi added to his international tally while on IR Iran duty, converting a penalty kick he won himself against Uzbekistan.

Taremi easily skipped around Uzbekistan’s Suyunov to draw the foul, before sending the shot-stopper the wrong way to make it 2-0 on the night, and three goals in his last four matches for the national team.

Eldor Shomurodov (Uzbekistan)
78 minutes, 1 goal (1-2 v IR Iran)

On a night where all of the big-name strikers seemed to get on the scoresheet, Uzbekistan’s Eldor Shomurodov marked his first national team appearance since signing for Italian outfit Genoa with an example of one of his many qualities.

With his side facing a two-goal deficit, Shomurodov produced a lovely, measured finished on the turn, finding the bottom corner from 18 yards after being supplied by Sanjar Kodirkulov.

Igor Sergeev (Uzbekistan)
18 minutes (1-2 v IR Iran)
80 minutes, 2 goals (2-1 v UAE)

Having appeared as a late subsittute in Tashkent four days prior, Igor Sergeev made the most of his promotion to the starting line-up for Uzbekistan’s match against the United Arab Emirates in Dubai on Monday, turning in a match-winning performance with two second-half goals.

The Pakhtakor forward calmly slotted in his first from close range just after half-time, but it was his second strike which will live in the memory – with Sergeev thumping home a 25-yard party piece to put the result beyond doubt in the final minutes.

Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan)
90 minutes, 87% passing accuracy (0-0 v Cameroon)
90 minutes (1-0 v Ivory Coast)

Two matches and two clean sheets makes good reading for any defender, and 21-year-old Takehiro Tomiyasu certainly emerged as one of Japan’s best performers across the international break.

The Bolonga man was ever reliable alongside the more experienced Maya Yoshida, performing particularly well against Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe in Japan’s win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

Gaku Shibasaki (Japan)
90 minutes, 11 duels won (0-0 v Cameroon)
90 minutes, 1 assist (1-0 v Ivory Coast)

Gaku Shibasaki made a solid contribution in both defence and attack for the Samurai Blue, playing every minute across their relatively successful two-match schedule.

The Leganes midfielder won 80% of defensive duels and found the target with 33 of 37 passes against Cameroon, and it was his pinpoint free-kick delivery which set up Naomichi Ueda’s last-gasp winner against Ivory Coast, helping Japan to their first win in Europe since the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The poll has ended. Thank you for voting.

Photos: AFP, AFC

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