AFF Suzuki Cup: Standout young players

There were several young players who announced their presence on the international stage in this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup. We take a look at eight of the best.

Aung Thu (Myanmar)

This diminutive 20-year-old striker was recently named the Myanmar League Player of the Season and he didn’t disappoint for his home country, arguably emerging as the most impressive young player of the tournament.

Aung was the star performer for Myanmar in their opening 2-1 loss to Vietnam. A constant danger down the left channel, he scored the equaliser via a superb move, picking up the ball outside the area before setting himself up on his left foot and firing home an unstoppable shot.

Aung picked up his second goal of the tournament in Myanmar’s 3-1 victory over Cambodia, finding himself in the right place at the right time to pounce on a loose ball after a deflection and hammer home.

Aung was also instrumental in helping Myanmar qualify for the semi-finals with their 1-0 win over Malaysia, frequently tormenting the opposition with his pace and hitting the crossbar with a superb free kick effort – although he would have been disappointed not to convert the penalty he earned himself.

And while Myanmar came off second best against Thailand in the semi-final, the first leg might have had a different result had Thai keeper Kawin Thamsatchanan not pulled off a superb save to deny Aung early in the second half.

Chan Vathanaka (Cambodia)

Chan Vathanaka

A frequent scorer in domestic competitions in his native country, Vathanaka impressed in a losing effort as Cambodia went down 3-2 to Malaysia in their tournament opener.

Vathanaka delighted Cambodian fans after beating the offside trap and slotting home after only seven minutes, and he grabbed his brace with a world-class finish on the hour mark to briefly restore his side’s one-goal lead.

Cambodia lost their second match against Myanmar as well, but Vathanaka did his country proud, drawing out the opposition goalkeeper before cutting the ball back for Sos Souhana who tapped home to score the opener.

Nguyen Van Toan (Vietnam)

Nguyen Van Toan

A 20-year-old who only made his debut for Vietnam earlier this year, Nguyen Van Toan is already displaying the kind of pace and scoring ability to make him a major threat going forward.

He was instrumental in helping his side qualify for the semi-finals with their 2-1 win over Cambodia in their final group game, playing a big part in Vietnam’s opener by setting up goalscorer Le Cong Vinh.

Vietnam fell agonisingly short in the semi-finals against Indonesia, a 2-2 draw in the second leg seeing them go down 4-3 on aggregate.

Nguyen came close to scoring on two separate occasions, particularly when he curled a shot just wide of the left-hand post at the start of second half.

Luong Xuan Truong (Vietnam)

Luong Xuan Truong

This 21-year-old midfielder was already making a name for himself prior to the start of the AFF competition, and his star has only risen since with a series of impressive performances.

A lively performer in Vietnam’s 1-0 group stage win over Malaysia, Luong Xuan Truong nearly teed up Nguyen Van Quyet with a good ball over the top and looked certain to score himself before being dispossessed by Ronny Harun right as he was about to shoot. Another shot from the Incheon United man later on flew just over the crossbar.

Luong was another player to emerge with distinction from the 2-2 second-leg semi-final draw with Indonesia, and very nearly gave his side the opener after setting up Le Cong Vinh with a superb cross.

Siroch Chatthong (Thailand)

Siroch Chatthong

This 24-year-old striker was not a first choice selection for the mighty Thai side, but that may change before too long.

During Thailand’s opening 4-2 win over Indonesia, Chatthong caused opposition defender Rudolof Basna to panic under pressure and hack the ball into the path of Peerapat Notchaiya, who scored the opening goal.

Brought on in the second leg of the semi-final against Myanmar when the overall result was more or less secure, the birthday boy controlled smartly just outside the area before smashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net as Thailand went on to secure a 4-0 victory.

Chanathip Songkrasin (Thailand)

Chanathip Songkrasin

A 23-year-old who plays for Muangthong United, Chanathip Songkrasin is another player who impressed whenever given the opportunity to show what he can do.

He was instrumental in the build-up to Thailand’s second goal in their group stage opener against Indonesia, cutting the ball inside for scorer Teerasil Dangda.

He followed that up with a standout performance in the first leg of the semi-final against Myanmar, denied by a good save from Kyaw Zin Phyo early on before teeing up Dangda for the opener with a superb defence-splitting pass.

Chanathip also finished off Thailand’s 4-0 rout of Myanmar in the second leg with a composed finish from 12 yards out after receiving a simple cut back from Sarawut Masuk.

Vu Van Thanh (Vietnam)

Vu Van Thanh

Yet another Vietnamese youngster to impress with his performances, 20-year-old Vu Van Thanh is certainly one for the future.

The young full-back is solid in defence but also has the ability to be a danger up front when given the chance.

He came close to extending his side’s lead late in their 2-1 win over Cambodia, but it was his performance in their 2-2 draw with Indonesia in the second-leg semi-final that really set him apart.

With Vietnam looking utterly down and out, trailing 1-0 in the match and 3-1 on aggregate with 14 minutes to play and having just had a man sent off, Van Thanh somehow conjured up an equaliser, latching onto Pham Thanh Luong’s clever cut back from a free-kick and sweeping home from the right hand side.

That would prove to be the impetus for a superb rear-guard effort as Vu Minh Tuan scored in injury time to prolong the contest against all odds.

Manahati Lestusen (Indonesia)

Manahati Lestusen

This 22-year-old defensive midfielder certainly did a sterling job for his side throughout the tournament, but makes this list for one particularly valuable contribution.

After Vietnam conceded a penalty early in injury time in the second-leg of their semi-final encounter against the Indonesians, it was Lestusen who had the unenviable task of stepping up under huge pressure to fire the spot-kick straight down the middle of the goal and send his country through to the final.