The AFC Asian Cup 2019 is reaching its business end in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the conclusion of the group stages on Thursday and the start of the knockout stages on Sunday.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed some of the best footballers in Asia taking centre stage and with that, it is also time to run the rule over their performances as well.
Here, we take a look at the five midfielders who have impressed us during the group stages.
5) Tom Rogic – Australia
AFC ASIAN CUP 2019 Player of Day 11: TOM ROGIC
Reigning champions Australia came in to the tournament looking to defend their title in the Emirates. However, they were left with a mountain to climb when they went down 1-0 to tournament’s surprise package Jordan in their opener. But they did manage to mount a comeback and progress to the knockout stages with two wins. And one of the key behind their resurgence has been Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic. The 26-year-old who was slammed for failing to live up against silenced his critiques with an injury time winner for the Socceroos against Syria in their final group game.
4) Boualem Khoukhi – Qatar
The versatile star is one of the more experienced in Qatar’s current crop of internationals and he makes sure that he is there to lead from the front when his team needs him. He has over 50 caps for the Maroons and can slot in in the midfield or defence for Felix Sanchez as they look to mount a challenge in the Asian Cup 2019. Boualem started as a central attacking mideo in Qatar’s opener against Lebanon before moving to the left of the midfield when they faced DPR Korea. The 28-year-old had no frills when he was fielded as a centre-back in the crunch clash against Saudi Arabia and kept a clean sheet! Talk of a utility player!
3) Javokhir Sidikov – Uzbekistan
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Turkmenistan 0-1 Uzbekistan – Javokhir Sidikov (17′)
Uzbekistan are looking to establish themselves as a player in Asian football under Hector Cuper and Javokhir Sidikov is one of the most exciting names the former Egypt head coach has under his disposal. Sidikov, only 22 years old, has started all three games for the Uzbeks so far and impressed in the wins over Oman and Turkmenistan as well as in the narrow defeat to four-time champions Japan. He also bagged his first international goal on January 13 when he scored against the Turkmens at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai. It looks like the future is bright for the Kokand 1912 midfielder.
2) Genki Haraguchi – Japan
The Hannover 96 attacker is looking to help Japan win their fifth continental title and has brought some form with him form the German Bundesliga. Haraguchi scored the winner for the Samurai Blue against Oman in controversial circumstances but was rested for their final group match that was against the Uzbeks. In their first game, Haraguchi had provided an assist for Yuya Osako’s goal against Turkmenistan and played a further five key passes. His pass success rate in that game was an impressive 92.3 per cent!
1) Ashkan Dejagah – IR Iran
the 32-year-old veteran is reaching the twilight of his international career, but what a way it would be to end it by lifting Iran’s first Asian Cup title in 43 years! The Tractor Sazi midfielder has looked up for it in the early stages of the tournament being a physical presence of right side of the Iran midfield. He has already scored one goal in Team Melli’s 5-0 thrashing of Yemen. The 32-year-old has made two starts in the tournament and but has played in 10 crosses in that time — more than any other Iran player.