The AFC Asian Cup 2019 has given us plenty of moments to remember. The showcase event for Asian football has seen some truly extraordinary displays of passion and determination from the competing sides, and in many ways encapsulated all the love that players and fans from this part of the world have for the beautiful game.
There can only be on winner though, and that will be decided soon in the final between Japan and Qatar, but there is reason to be joyful even if you aren’t from either of those nations.
Young players were given an opportunity to shine in this tournament, and boy did they take their chance with both hands. A breakout star is one who makes his name at a tournament as big as this, and these young footballers did not let a single opportunity pass them by:
#5 Mohanad Ali (Iraq)
Without a doubt, the youngest player in the tournament came up with the goods when he was called upon.
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Yemen 0-1 Iraq – Mohanad Ali Kadhim(11′)
Some may have feared the worst when Iraq decided to put their faith in an 18-year-old newbie, but Mohanad Ali rose to the occasion like few ever have, and played his best football. Goals in the group stage and strong displays in the knockouts, he has all the makings of a very dangerous front man.
There is no surprise then, that some European giants are keeping a close eye on his progress and could be lining up a bid to sign the talented teenager at the earliest.
#4 Tarek Salman (Qatar)
There is a reason that Qatar find themselves in the final of the Asian Cup. They have invested in youth and have got the very best out of them.
Highlights – Qatar vs United Arab Emirates
He may not be banging in goals, but Tarek Salman has slowly but steadily gone about his job at center half with ease. No goals conceded so far by the Qataris is a lot down to the 21-year-old’s calmness in defence, and has resulted in his nation being in prime position for becoming Asian Cup Champions.
#3 Bassam Al-Rawi (Qatar)
Tarek Salman’s partner in crime in defence, Bassam Al-Rawi has suddenly become a household name out of nowhere.
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Qatar 1-0 Iraq – Bassam Al-Rawi (62′)
His two goals and stunning free-kick taking ability has come to the notice of clubs around the globe, and at 21, he has the world at his feet. He may have been suspended for the semi-final, but be sure to see him play a huge part in the finale against Japan.
What stands out about Al-Rawi is the fact that this competition has showed the world that there is a player who can come in out of nowhere and take the tournament by storm.
#2 Ritsu Doan (Japan)
Another young player making waves thanks to the Asian Cup is Ritsu Doan. Japan have an experienced squad, but Doan has only just joined the fray, but continues to impress.
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Vietnam 0-1 Japan – Ritsu Doan (57′)
His nerveless penalty in the quarter-finals proved that he can take pressure, and in the absence of star names such as Yuya Osako, can shoulder the Japanese attack.
The future is bright for the 20-year-old, and bigger clubs from Europe will be scrambling to get him in quickly.
#1 Almoez Ali (Qatar)
Was there ever any doubt about this one? Qatar have made it to the finals on the back of some terrific goals, eight of which have come from just one man.
AFC Asian Cup 2019: Qatar 2-0 UAE – Almoez Ali (37′)
Almoez Ali refuses to go away, and basically demands he be included in any such list. He has already equalled the highest ever scoring tally in the tournament, and has a chance to make further history in the final.
At 22, Almoez is only just starting out, and though we did see his ability at the Gulf Cup, it is at the Asian Cup that he has proved his worth. Truly, a star has been born.