UAE's Harib Abdallah and the breakout stars to watch at the 2023 Asian Cup

South Korean and PSG attacking midfielder Lee Kang-in and Pham Tuan Hai of Vietnam also players to keep an eye on in Qatar

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With the delayed 2023 Asian Cup getting under way in Qatar this week, we look at some of the emerging players who could make a name for themselves on the continent's grandest stage.

Lee Kang-in (South Korea)

OK, so the fact Lee plays his club football at Paris Saint-Germain might not exactly scream breakout star, but this feels his moment on the international stage. The hugely exciting attacking midfielder, 22, is in his debut season for the French champions, contributing to the team alongside loftier names in Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. Enjoying a real period of fine form for South Korea, too, with four goals and three assists in four matches until was uncharacteristically sent off in last Saturday’s 1-0 friendly win against Iraq in Abu Dhabi.

Ali Jasim (Iraq)

Only 19, the Iraq forward has been making a name for himself this past year, starring at the Under 20 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan in March as his side finished runners-up. Jasim struck the winner in the quarter-final and found the net again in the semis.

Has been in extraordinary form also for Air Force Club, scoring four times in this season’s Asian Champions League. May have made his senior Iraq debut only in October, but much is expected of the talented teenager. One to watch this month, for sure.

Harib Abdallah (UAE)

Grabbing the winner against South Korea and thus inflicting their only defeat in 2022 World Cup qualification is not a bad way to announce your arrival on the international scene. Nor is putting in a man-of-the-match display, despite defeat, against Australia in the Qatar 2022 play-off.

Abdallah, 21, is already a UAE league winner with Shabab Al Ahli – he helped the team to the title last season – and piqued continental interest way before that by scoring in the Asian Champions League aged 17. A rapid winger, with skills to match, should get viewers off their seats.

Abbosbek Fayzullaev (Uzbekistan)

Part of a really promising generation of Uzbek talent, Fayzullaev is perhaps the pick of the bunch. The attacking midfielder, 20, broke through at the Under 23 Asian Cup in 2022, when he helped Uzbekistan finish runners-up, and then starred at the U20 edition last year, collecting another silver medal. He was also named player of the tournament.

Having debuted for the senior team last year, the CSKA Moscow youngster scored in his second appearance, and has two goals in eight appearances thus far. Impressing, too, in his debut campaign in Moscow.

Pham Tuan Hai (Vietnam)

To say Tuan Hai is the standout forward in a gifted Vietnam attack gives an idea of just what the Hanoi FC star can offer. Has been in brilliant form for club this season, excelling in their debut Asian Champions League campaign by scoring four goals. His late winner against Urawa Red Diamonds eliminated the defending champions at the group stage.

Tuan Hai, 25, has grown in importance for this national team, finding the net in matches against Syria and Palestine as manager Philippe Troussier entrusts him to fire Vietnam towards perhaps replicating that surprise run to the 2019 quarter-finals.

Updated: January 11, 2024, 5:56 AM