Tottenham trialist and Iranian Messi among 5 Asian Cup stars to watch

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This Friday things are really hotting up Down Under with the kick-off of the 2015 Asian Cup pitting hosts Australia against group stage opponents Kuwait and we’re here to give you the inside track of five exciting young stars to watch out for.

Featuring a UAE unknown alongside a prolific Japanese marksmen and many, many more, here’s five of the most exciting stars to watch out for from this Friday on Eurosport and beyond.

1. Mathew Ryan

Previously on trial at Tottenham, the 22-year-old goalkeeper has already attracted interest from Hull City this term having starred both for the Socceroos and Club Brugge where he was named the Belgium Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year for the 2013-14 season.

He may be shorter than the average Premier League goalkeeper at 5ft 11in but the former Central Coast Mariners man, who impressed for Australia at the World Cup, boasts superb reflexes and excellent distribution skills that could be crucial to the host’s chances.

 

2. Shinji Okazaki

Linked with moves to the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in recent months, the 28-year-old Japanese striker is approaching the peak of his powers having enjoyed a prolific few months in the Bundesliga with his current club side Mainz.

Okazaki has averaged a goal every other game for the German side and has proven similarly impressive for the national side with 40 goals in 84 games. On the scoresheet at the World Cup in Brazil, the forward also netted with an audacious backheel during a friendly win over Australia.

 

3. Omar Abdulrahman

Rumoured to be on the radars of both Manchester City and Arsenal in recent times, UAE’s great hope is a tricky winger by trade and regarded as one of the most talented youngsters to have emerged from the Asian region after impressing at the Olympics.

Abdulrahman was previously close to signing for City after impressing during a trial back in 2012 only for work permit issues to prevent the transfer, however a fine showing at the Asian Cup could see several big Premier League clubs circling around the midfielder again.

 

4. Son Heung-min

Arguably the best Asian player in the world at present, Son Heung-Min’s tendency to operate in a wide attacking role, cutting inside to shoot with alarming regularity, has seen the 22-year-old dubbed “Sonaldo” by some fans and the CR7 comparisons are not entirely unjust.

Currently on the books at Bayer Leverkusen, following a move from Hamburg where a return of 12  goals in 34 games from midfield convinced the Bayer-backed club to invest, Son has proven just as prolific with Leverkusen and is regularly linked with a move to Liverpool – one to watch in 2015.

 

5. Sardar Azmoun

Already dubbed the “Iranian Messi” in some quarters, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil came slightly too soon for the Rubin Kazan attacker who has largely impressed for the Russian side, playing as either a striker or winger and scoring five goals in 27 appearances.

Azmoun has looked excellent for the national team with two goals in four appearances and with Iran ranked as dark horses for the tournament after a solid showing in Brazil, manager Carlos Queiroz could gamble on the exciting youngster in Australia who has been watched by Arsenal.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.