AFC Asian Cup 2019 – Players to Watch: Wu Lei

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

In Part 7 of FOX Sports Asia’s “Players to Watch” series for AFC Asian Cup 2019, we look closely at Wu Lei, China PR’s livewire in attack.

Considering he made his professional debut at 14, it is perhaps unsurprising how far Wu Lei has come given the potential he showed at such a tender age.

Now, at the age of 27, there appears to be no better man to lead China PR at AFC Asian Cup 2019 as the sleeping giants look to awaken from their slumber.

Since finishing third in their Asian Cup debut back in 1976, the Chinese have always been regarded as one of the continent’s stronger sides but are yet to go all the way.

After back-to-back group-stage eliminations in 2007 and 2011, China did salvage some pride four years ago when they qualified for the quarter-finals.

– Akram Afif (Qatar)
– Yuya Osako (Japan)
– Omar Al-Soma (Syria)
– Lee Jae-sung (Korea Republic)
Alireza Beiranvand (Iran)
Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)

With the huge investment in the Chinese Super League showing no signs of letting up, and with a world-class tactician in Marcello Lippi at the helm of the national team, Team Dragon can only flatter to deceive for so much longer.

Thankfully, they do have a genuine game changer in the ranks in Wu, who continues to shine for Shanghai SIPG and this past season was the CSL’s top scorer with 27 goals, ahead of global names like Hulk, Alexandre Pato, Graziano Pelle and Odion Ighalo.

Despite not playing as an out-and-out striker, Wu does his best work coming in from the left, where he can make the most of his sheer pace and skill to get the better of his direct opponent and create space to exploit.

However, the Nanjing native also shows great intelligence in his positioning and off-the-ball movement, which are often key to him making his way into scoring positions.