AFC Asian Cup 2019 Round of 16: The Top 10

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks the ten best performers from the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Round of 16.

1) DOAN VAN HAU (VIETNAM)

Vietnam’s TOP THREE performers against Jordan

Considering he is still only 19, it is remarkable how much maturity Doan Van Hau shows on the field and he was integral in Vietnam’s stunning progress to the quarter-finals following a penalty shootout victory over Jordan.

Despite being a left wing-back, Van Hau looked like his side’s likeliest source of an equaliser in the first half as he showed plenty of attacking intent and a willingness to test opposition goalkeeper Amer Shafi.

Defensively, the Ha Noi youngster also did really well to curb the influence of Jordan livewire Musa Al-Taamari, and the future continues to look exceedingly bright for the Vietnamese starlet.

2) ZHENG ZHI (CHINA PR)

From one of the tournament’s youngest players, we move on to an evergreen veteran who rolled back the years to help China PR come from behind and beat Thailand 2-1.

At the age of 38, Zheng Zhi may no longer be the all-action midfielder than formerly played in the Premier League with Charlton but is thriving in his new role as a deep-lying playmaker.

Despite his ageing legs, Zheng showed a lovely burst of pace to break free down the right and float in a cross that led to Xiao Zhi’s equaliser, and was also involved in the build-up that saw the Chinese win the penalty which Gao Lin converted for the winner.

3) THEERATHON BUNMATHAN (THAILAND)

While Thailand came up just short in their bid to reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals, many of the War Elephants can head home with their heads held high and one such player is Theerathon Bunmathan.

His season-long loan spell in the J1 League with Vissel Kobe has certainly been beneficial, with the left-back displaying new levels of strength, confidence and tactical knowledge.

Theerathon will be returning to Japan this year after sealing another loan deal – this time with Yokohama F. Marinos – and must be looking forward to playing at the next Asian Cup in four years, when he should be at his peak at the age of 32.

4) ALIREZA BEIRANVAND (IRAN)

Sardar Azmoun points goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand the right way in penalty save

It seems strange to highlight a goalkeeper as the best performer when his team claimed a comfortable 2-0 win but, were it not for Alireza Beiranvand’s heroics, the game between Iran and Oman could have been a far different story.

Having seen Majid Hosseini concede a penalty inside the opening 60 seconds, Beiranvand did brilliantly to keep out Ahmed Al-Mahaijri’s spot-kick and then produced another fine save just before halftime to ensure Team Melli went into the break with a two-goal cushion.

Following his heroics at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the 26-year-old continues to grow in stature and has firmly established himself as one of the continent’s best shot-stoppers.

5) TAKEHIRO TOMIYASU (JAPAN)

Heading into the tournament with just two caps to his name, Takehiro Tomiyasu has been a revelation and is one of just three to have been involved in all four of Japan’s matches thus far.

After being deployed in the heart of midfield in the opening match, Tomiyasu has since been shifted to his natural position of centre-back and looks a solid option alongside captain Maya Yoshida.

Standing at 1.88-metres tall, the Sint-Truiden man also put his aerial prowess to good use at the other end of the pitch, popping up to score the only goal of the match with a towering header to hand the Japanese a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia and a place in the quarter-finals.

6) TOM ROGIC (AUSTRALIA)

For the second consecutive match round, Tom Rogic gets the nod in “The Top 10” following another impressive display for Australia as they edged past Uzbekistan 4-2 on penalties following a 0-0 draw on Monday.

After a slow start to the tournament, the Celtic star continues to grow in influence for the Socceroos and he constantly looked the likeliest source of the breakthrough with his probing in the attacking third.

Considering Australia’s main striker – Jamie Maclaren – has been far from prolific so far, Rogic’s ability to hit the net himself – as well as bring his wide attackers into the game – could prove all the more crucial to his side’s hopes of getting past United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals.

7) HWANG HEE-CHAN (KOREA REPUBLIC)

On an evening where their talismanic captain Son Heung-min looked a little out of sorts, Korea Republic were thankful that Hwang Hee-chan was able to step up in their 2-1 extra-time triumph over Bahrain.

The Hamburg forward was the Taegeuk Warriors‘ liveliest player in the opening 45 and it was no surprise that he opened the scoring with a calm finish after Lee Yong’s right-wing cross had been diverted into his path.

His match did however end on a sour note as he came off injured in the 80th minute and Korea Republic coach Paulo Bento now faces a nervous wait to see if he recovers in time for Friday’s quarter-final clash with Qatar.

8) HAMAD AL-SHAMSAN (BAHRAIN)

Highlights – Korea Republic vs Bahrain

In the end, Bahrain’s adventurous run at the Asian Cup came to an end in the Round of 16, but they definitely came out of the tournament with enhanced reputations.

Their defence, in particular, was a standout and Hamad Al-Shamsan led the way well as he manfully battled with the opposition’s best strikers while also showing good composure on the ball.

Still only 21, Al-Shamsan does not appear to be overawed by the big occasion and should go on to be the cornerstone of the Bahrain backline for the next decade.

9) BASSAM AL-RAWI (QATAR)

Having been born in Iraq, with his father being a former international no less, it was quite a story that Bassam Al-Rawi popped up as Qatar’s match-winner in the final Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

With the usually deadly Almoez Ali and Akram Afif both misfiring, Bassam came to the rescue with a sublime freekick that cleared the wall by the finest of margins before nestling perfectly into the bottom corner.

Apart from his goal-scoring exploits, the 21-year-old was also excellent in defence as he weighed in with his fair share of timely tackles and crucial interceptions.

10) MARCELLO LIPPI (CHINA PR)

It was a great performance as China go through – Lippi

With his side’s hopes of staying in the Asian Cup hanging in the balance as they trailed Thailand 1-0, Marcello Lippi’s decision to throw on Xiao Zhi proved to be a masterstroke as the towering striker took just three minutes to level the scores after being introduced.

Following a lacklustre first half, the Chinese did show plenty more urgency and intensity after Lippi’s halftime team talk, with the likes of Gao Lin and Zheng Zhi leading for their coach on the field.

As a former World Cup-winning coach with Italy in 2006, there is no doubt over Lippi’s credentials but it is intriguing to see how far he can go with a side that are not exactly among the favourites,

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