Dheeraj Singh makes the cut in top 8 players to look out for at the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers
The shot-stopper is the only Indian to make the list chosen from 989 players across 43 countries.
The 2018 AFC U-19 Championship will be the 40th edition of the AFC U-19 Championship, the biennial international youth football championship organised by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the men's under-19 national teams of Asia. It will take place in Indonesia, which was appointed as hosts by the AFC on 25 July 2017, between 18 October and 4 November 2018. A total of 16 teams will play in the tournament.
The qualifiers of the AFC U-19 Championship will go down under by 31st October 2017 and out of the 989 players (43 teams in the qualifiers X 23 players per squad) that are ought to play, AFC has drafted down eight players who stand out from the crowd of young guns. As excited as it gets, 'The Manipuri Saviour' Dheeraj Singh has been included. In a country having a void footballing culture, it is a proud moment for the Indian masses to see a 17-year-old is regarded as one of the best.
India were knocked out of the U-17 World Cup in the group stages itself, though It is a small step for the Indian squad but a giant leap for the nation. Following is the list of players AFC has highlighted to look out for.
Hanis Saghara Putra
The young striker has been rising fast through the Indonesian leagues
Indonesia are guaranteed a spot in the tournament as hosts but will still participate in the qualifiers in Group F, alongside Korea Republic, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste.
Among those looking to make an impact will be 18-year-old striker Hanis Saghara Putra, who plays for Indonesian third division side Persibo Bojonegoro but has already represented his country at international tournaments.
He was called up to the Indonesian U-19 squad for the prestigious Toulon Tournament earlier this year, where the Southeast Asians locked horns with Scotland, the Czech Republic and Brazil.
The young attacker netted in the final group game against Scotland and will now look to maintain his scoring form during the upcoming qualifiers.
The Iraqi once again caught the eye at the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup
Undoubtedly one of the star names in this qualification campaign, Mohammed Dawood will have a lot riding on his shoulders as he looks to shine in yet another international tournament for Iraq.
Dawood was in unstoppable form at the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship in Goa, when he took Iraq to the title and was named as top scorer and tournament MVP.
To top it all off, he also netted the winning penalty during the shootout in the final against the Islamic Republic of Iran, before going on to also shine at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he scored against Mexico and Chile in the group stage.
Unfortunately, he was suspended for the Round of 16 tie against Mali, as Iraq lost 5-1 without their inspirational star, but Dawood will now look to make amends at the next level when he makes his debut for the U-19 team.
The Kashima Antlers frontman has already played in the AFC Champions League
Hiroki Abe is unique for the players on this list as he has already made an appearance at the AFC Champions League, with the 18-year old striker coming on as a substitute for Kashima Antlers in this year's edition.
While Abe has been coming through the ranks at club level, he has also featured for his country's age group teams in recent years.
Earlier this year, he played for Japan at the Toulon Tournament, where he appeared in draws with Cuba and Angola before the young Samurai Blue were knocked out by England.
Abe scored his first league goal for Kashima in July and will now look to get off the mark at international level when he lines up at the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers.
Arzani is being touted as the next big thing in Australian football
Sydney-born Daniel Arzani has been one of the most exciting players to come through the Australian youth system in recent years.
The central midfielder fine-tuned his skills at the Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) Centre of Excellence in Canberra before signing for A-League side Melbourne City.
Arzani was a key member of the Australian team that went all the way to the 2014 AFC U-16 Championship semi-finals, where he netted an 85th-minute equaliser against DPR Korea before eventually losing on penalties.
A year later, Arzani was in the squad as Australia travelled to Chile for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, where he made an appearance against Germany in the group stage.
Rashid holds the record for the youngest player to score in the UAE's top flight
The United Arab Emirates' Majed Rashid is known in his country as a record breaker after becoming the youngest ever scorer in the domestic league.
In January of this year, the Ittihad Kalba midfielder wrote his name into the history books with a goal against Al Shabab when he was just 16 years old.
Rashid made 14 appearances for his club in 2016-17 and captained the UAE at the AFC U-16 Championship in India, where he scored in the opening 3-2 win over the hosts before his side eventually lost in the quarter-finals to Japan.
Alongside a number of his U-16 teammates, Rashid was called up to the U-19 squad for the AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers, where the UAE will face Oman, Bahrain, Nepal and Kyrgyzstan.
Doan Van Hau
The Hanoi FC star has already played in the competition in 2016
Doan Van Hau is the only player on this list who has already played at an AFC U-19 Championship, with the left-back having appeared for Vietnam at the 2016 edition in Bahrain at 17.
The Hanoi FC star netted the decisive strike in injury-time in a 2-1 win over DPR Korea and he also played in the 1-1 draw with the UAE.
After missing the final group game against Iraq, Van Hau returned for the 1-0 win in the quarter-final against hosts Bahrain, before Vietnam’s superb run was brought to an end by Japan in the semi-finals.
Vietnam thus qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017, where Van Hau featured in all three group games, although the Southeast Asians exited at the first hurdle.
Arshad Al Alawi
Al Alawai has been in fine form for his national team
Oman’s exciting goal-scoring talent Arshad Al Alawi has been in fine form leading up to the qualifiers by netting in friendly games against Syria and Mexico.
The forward came to continental prominence at the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship in India when he helped Oman progress from a tricky group to the quarter-finals.
Al Alawi displayed his quality by scoring three of Oman's four goals in the group stage as the West Asians topped the table ahead of Iraq and the Korea Republic, before penalty shootout heartbreak at the hands of DPR Korea.
Having moved to Sur SC earlier in the year, the forward is now set to lead the line for his country once again when they face Bahrain, Nepal, the Kyrgyz Republic and the United Arab Emirates for a place at the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship.
The shot-stopper was the standout player at India's first FIFA event
India made history earlier this month when their youngsters played at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, becoming the first Indian side to appear at a FIFA tournament.
Although the young Blue Tigers were eliminated in the group stages, goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh earned plaudits for his fine performances.
Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem: The cub that helped savour the dreams
In his first appearance at the continental level, Singh kept clean sheets against Bahrain and Lebanon at the 2016 AFC Championship qualifiers as India earned qualification to a tournament they were already guaranteed a spot as hosts.
Singh continued to impress in the finals, making a brilliant penalty save against the UAE, and the Indian U-17 ‘keeper has now been promoted to the U-19 category as he hopes to continue his rise to stardom.
Published: Thu Oct 26, 2017 08:17 PM IST