Sydney, Jan 21, 2015 (AFP) -Five stand-out players from the Asian Cup after the end of the group stage:
Omar Abdulrahman (UAE)
Abdulrahman is immediately recognisable by his mop of curly hair but it is his outstanding football which has caught the eye in the group stages. Pulling the strings for the UAE attack, Abu Dhabi-based Abdulrahman orchestrated wins against Qatar and Bahrain before UAE went down narrowly in a 1-0 loss to Iran.
The 23-year-old, reportedly once courted by Manchester City, has yet to score but he has been instrumental in Ali Mabkhout’s tally of three so far, including a sublime ball to the striker’s feet when he scored after just 14 seconds against Bahrain, the Asian Cup’s fastest recorded goal.
Keisuke Honda (Japan)
Japan’s blond talisman is playing like a man possessed and he looks grimly determined to lead the Blue Samurai to a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title.
Honda scored in all three group games against Palestine, Iraq and Jordan and he could have had more, hitting the framework three times against Iraq and again in Tuesday’s game with Jordan.
The AC Milan forward was fined $5,000 for criticising a referee but he has not let it affect either his play or his comments, which continue to be outspoken.
Massimo Luongo (Australia)
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has been rebuilding after the disbanding of Australia’s “golden generation” and Luongo is leading the way among the new faces.
The 22-year-old was a surprise starter for the opening game against Kuwait but he repaid Postecoglou’s faith with a sparkling performance capped by his first international goal.
The Swindon Town midfielder also provided the pass for veteran Tim Cahill’s opener and when Luongo scored a Cahill-style header during the 4-1 win, the changing of the guard was clear for all to see.
Ki Sung-Yueng (South Korea)
After a poor World Cup and a slow start there is renewed optimism about South Korea, and much of it is down the lung-busting efforts of captain Ki Sung-Yueng.
The Swansea City midfielder is one of several players at the tournament to grace Europe’s top leagues, and his class has shown in South Korea’s three wins so far, including against hosts Australia.
Ki, 25, has become a regular under Swansea’s Garry Monk and South Korea’s quarter-final opponents, Uzbekistan, will be lining him up as the man to stop.
Andranik Teymourian (Iran)
The former Bolton Wanderers and Fulham player is the bulwark for Iran in defensive midfield and his work has paid off after Team Melli reached the quarter-finals without conceding a goal.
At 31, Teymourian has shown superb energy levels in providing a platform for the attacking talents of Ashkan Dejagah,
Sardar Azmoun and Reza Ghoochannejhad, while shielding Iran’s back four. His importance to Iran was exemplified in his man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 win over Qatar.