Asia

Southeast Asia’s two challengers for the Best Footballer in Asia 2019


The
Best
Footballer
in
Asia
2019
will
soon
be
awarded
to
the
continent’s
standout
individual
over
the
past
12
months
with
Southeast
Asia
boasting
two
contenders.

And
few
would
argue
that
Vietnam’s
talismanic
playmaker
Nguyen
Quang
Hai
and
Thailand’s
history-making
left-back
Theerathon
Bunmathan
have
not
been
the
region’s
most-impressive
duo
in
2019.

Having
rose
to
prominence
in
2018
following
his
exploits
on
the
international
stage

starring
at
the
AFC
U-23
Championship,
Asian
Games
and
AFF
Suzuki
Cup

Quang
Hai
turned
it
up
a
notch
this
year
for
both
club
and
country.

AFC
Asian
Cup
2019:
Vietnam
1-0
Yemen

Nguyen
Quang
Hai
(39′)

Still
only
22,
the
left-footed
maestro
was
part
of
the
Vietnam
side
that
made
waves
by
reaching
the
quarter-finals
of
the
AFC
Asian
Cup
back
in
January,
netting
a
stunner
to
open
the
scoring
in
a
2-0
win
over
Yemen
that
sealed
progress
from
the
group
stage
and
impressing
against
some
formidable
opposition.

Quang
Hai
then
turned
his
attentions
to
domestic
and
continental
football
as
Hanoi
FC
cruised
to
the
V.League
1
title,
and
also
accomplished
an
unprecedented
feat
in
the
AFC
Cup
by
becoming
the
first
ASEAN
Zone
outfit
to
reach
the
inter-zone
playoff
final.

Deployed
in
a
more-withdrawn
role
and
effectively
playing
as
a
central
midfielder,
he
continued
to
impact
matches
as
a
creative
influence
and
netted
a
total
of
ten
goals
across
both
competitions,
memorably
producing
a
match-winning
display
in
a
3-2
win
over
Altyn
Asyr
in
the
AFC
Cup
inter-zone
semi-finals.

There
is
no
doubt
that
Quang
Hai
is
now
one
of
the
hottest
youngsters
across
the
continent,
but
Southeast
Asia’s
other
contender
for
the
BFA
2019
crown
is
a
more-experienced
stalwart
who
is
finally
getting
the
recognition
he
deserves.

As
a
rampaging
left-back
who
really
rose
to
prominence
at
Buriram
United
before
moving
to
fellow
Thai
League
1
giants
Muangthong
United,
Theerathon
has
been
one
of
the
standouts
in
Thai
football
for
almost
a
decade
now
but
was
perhaps
less
recognisable
to
a
wider
Asian
audience.

That
changed
last
year
when
he
finally
earned
a
move
abroad
at
the
age
of
27,
as
he
moved
to
Japan
and
initially
rubbed
shoulders
with
world-class
players
like
Andres
Iniesta
and
Lukas
Podolski
at
Vissel
Kobe.

His
excellent
one-on-one
defending
and
ability
from
set-pieces
then
convinced
Yokohama
F.
Marinos
to
secure
his
services
for
2019
and
he
featured
regularly
as
his
side
were
crowned
champions
of
Japan
for
the
first
time
in
15
years,
becoming
the
first
Thai
to
ever
win
the
J.League
in
the
process.

On
the
international
stage,
Theerathon
was
also
a
key
player
for
Thailand
as
they
overcame
a
shock
4-1
loss
to
India
in
their
tournament
opener
to
reach
the
Round
of
16
at
the
Asian
Cup,
where
they
ultimately
fell
to
China
PR.

Despite
the
outstanding
year
both
have
had,
it
will
probably
take
something
special
for
either
Quang
Hai
or
Theerathon
to
challenge
for
top
honours
in
BFA
2019,
especially
when
they
are
coming
up
against
the
likes
of
Son
Heung-min,
Yuya
Osako
and
Akram
Afif.

Nonetheless,
the
fact
that
they
can
be
mentioned
in
the
same
breath
as
these
European-based
stars
of
Asia
for
their
performances
in
2019
highlights
how
Southeast
Asia
is
slowly
but
surely
closing
the
gap
between
them
and
the
continent’s
elite.

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