10 Asian stars who could light up the FIFA World Cup

Hidetoshi Nakata, Ali Daei, Park Ji-Sung — In the history of the FIFA World Cup, there has been no shortage of Asian players who have shone on football’s biggest stage.

With the World Cup returning to Asian soil for the first time since Japan and South Korea co-hosted in 2002, there are many hoping this will be their turn in the spotlight.

– World Cup 2022: All squad lists for Qatar

For traditional heavyweights Japan, South Korea and Iran — and no shortage of Europe-based stars — it could be fairly recognizable names lighting up the World Cup.

But for hosts Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who boast squads made up entirely of players plying their trade locally, one or two unfamiliar faces may make the rounds.

Here, let’s look at ten people who can do it.

Almos Ali (Qatar)

Almos Ali, who was born in Sudan but moved to Qatar as a child, is now widely regarded as one of Asia’s leading strikers – largely due to his scintillating displays in his national team’s victorious AFC Asian Cup campaign.

Almos scored a magnificent nine goals in seven games, including decisive strikes in the semi-final and final, to claim the tournament’s Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player award.

Since then, the 26-year-old has also netted the Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cups when the Qataris were invited, and will be hoping to add at least one World Cup goal to his tally.

Abdelkarim Hassan (Qatar)

Defenders often get less attention, but Abdelkarim Hasan boasts an exciting machine at left-back in Qatar.

The Al Sadd man is more than capable of fulfilling his defensive duties, but is often seen going forward — goals and assists at will — and thrives when his side adopt a particularly adventurous approach.

The 2018 Asian Footballer of the Year, being part of the first Qatari team to win a World Cup, will come as a form of redemption for the volatile Abdelkarim when his reputation was tarnished three years ago. The Asian Football Confederation handed out a five-month ban for violently confronting a referee in an AFC Champions League match.

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Mehdi Taremi (Iran)

At the last World Cup, Mehdi Taremi was still competing in Asia and will perhaps be remembered for the crucial injury-time miss that denied Iran a shock win over Portugal and a historic place in the round of 16.

Four years on, he is now a striker at the peak of his powers, with five UEFA Champions League goals to his name already this season for Portuguese giants Porto.

A key member of Porto’s side that won the Portuguese league and cup double last season, Taremi has scored an impressive 62 goals in three-and-a-half seasons since moving to Portugal — initially with Rio Ave — and is full of potential. Iran is a detriment to any team competing in Group B.

Alireza Beiranvand (Iran)

Although Taremi denied Iran a historic victory over Portugal in that game at the last World Cup, it was goalkeeper Alireza Birenvand who instantly caught the attention of the reason they got there. When he denied a certain Cristiano Ronaldo from the penalty spot.

Beiranvand, a four-time Iranian league champion with Persepolis, eventually made it to Europe with Belgium’s Royal Antwerp and had a loan spell in Portugal with Boavista, although injuries have hampered him in recent times.

Now back with Persepolis, the 30-year-old faces stiff competition for Melli’s No.1 jersey after the emergence of other viable options such as Amir Abedzadeh, but he should still be Carlos Queiroz’s first choice in goal for a second successive World Cup. .

Salman Al-Faraj (Saudi Arabia)

It’s a bit of a shame that Salman Al-Faraj, one of Asia’s most talented players of the past decade, has never plied his trade outside of Saudi Arabia — spending his entire career with local heavyweights Al Hilal.

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The 33-year-old can always compose himself on the ball, netting in his country’s win over Egypt at Russia 2018 and scoring at a World Cup.

Saudi Arabia face stern tests against Argentina, Poland and Mexico in Qatar, where scoring opportunities should be at a premium, and Al-Faraj and his left-footed baton may be their best bet to create any openings.

Salem Al-Dawsari (Saudi Arabia)

Salem Al-Dawsari’s clinical volley secured a 2-1 win – just the nation’s third in five tournament games – after an Al-Faraj penalty leveled Saudi Arabia against Egypt at the last World Cup.

Like Al-Faraj, Al-Dawsari has spent his entire career so far under contract with Al Hilal, but his lone appearance as a substitute came on a brief loan spell at LaLiga outfit Villarreal, where he memorably came against Real Madrid.

Now 31 and at the peak of his powers, the lively wide striker has also proven he’s one for the big stage — having inspired Al Hilal to AFC Champions League glory last season with a string of MVP-winning displays. There won’t be a bigger chance for him to perform than in the coming weeks.

Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan)

Japanese football has had no shortage of successful exports to Europe, with only a handful making a mark in the Premier League, but one man promising to change that is Takehiro Tomiyasu.

After two impressive seasons in Serie A with Bologna, the versatile defender secured a move to Arsenal at the start of last season and took no time in establishing himself as a handy contributor.

While he is usually deployed out wide for his club, Tomiyasu will line up alongside veteran captain Maya Yoshida at the heart of the Samurai Blue defense and will also be tasked with initiating attacks with his composed distribution at the back.

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Daichi Kamada (Japan)

With the Japan squad consisting of four strikers with ten international goals, there are understandable concerns about whether coach Hajime Moriasu has enough firepower – especially as they face both Germany and Spain.

Thankfully for the Samurai Blue, they may not be in need of a traditional out-and-out striker, given midfielder Daichi Kamada has been a fixture so far this season.

The Eintracht Frankfurt man’s brilliant start to his new campaign has already seen him score 12 goals in all 21 games, and his dynamic style of play should catch the eye of many neutral viewers in Qatar.

Kim Min-jae (South Korea)

Napoli haven’t felt the departure of Kalidou Koulibaly — who has established himself as one of Serie A’s premier centre-backs over the past few years — to Chelsea, largely due to their astute acquisition of his replacement, Kim Min-jae. .

In his second month in Italy, Kim was named Serie A’s Player of the Month in September and will be keen to decorate the World Cup he missed out on four years ago due to injury.

Standing at 1.9m and built with a giant frame, the 25-year-old will more than hold his own against the likes of Ronaldo and Luis Suarez — which should make for a fascinating one-on-one duel.

Son Heung-Min (South Korea)

Indeed, there isn’t a bigger soccer player in Asian sports right now — or in the last five years — than South Korean captain Son Heung-Min.

A player who needs no introduction, Puth rose to world-class status last season when he scored 23 goals in the Premier League and won the competition’s Golden Boot alongside Mohamed Salah.

However, the Tottenham man has struggled for form so far this season, suffering a facial fracture while on club duty, and although he has reiterated his determination to lead the South Koreans in the tournament – that should be good news. For anyone hoping to see a trademark that screams Son of Qatar.


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