(Persia Digest) - FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks the best goalkeepers to look out for at AFC Asian Cup 2019.
1) Alireza Beiranvand (Iran)
Having only established himself in the national team a couple of years ago, Alireza Beiranvand really rose to prominence at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a string of fine displays as Iran nearly pipped Spain and Portugal to a spot in the Round of 16.
The highlight of his tournament came against the Portuguese when he saved a penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo, and – despite there being no shortage of offers from overseas – the 26-year-old decided to stay put at Persepolis.
It proved to be a savvy decision as the Iranian giants went on to reach the AFC Champions League final, although Beiranvand was unable to prevent them from losing 2-0 on aggregate to Kashima Antlers.
2) Michael Falkesgaard (Philippines)
There can be no denying that the absence of Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge will be a huge blow to a Philippines side looking to give a good account of themselves in their AFC Asian Cup debut.
But unlike their Southeast Asian counterparts Thailand, who look ill-equipped to replace first-choice Kawin Thamsatchanan, the Azkals at least have a more-than-capable deputy in Michael Falkesgaard.
The Danish-born 27-year-old was arguably the standout goalkeeper in Thai League 1 this year with Bangkok United, but also impressed in Philippines’ run to the semi-finals of AFF Suzuki Cup 2018, playing five of their six matches after replacing Etheridge following the first game.
3) Jo Hyeon-woo (Korea Republic)
Like Beiranvand, Jo Hyeon-woo had a breakout 2018 FIFA World Cup as he went from virtual unknown to one of Asia’s top goalkeeping prospects.
Even with more-experienced options available in Kim Seung-gyu and Kim Jin-hyeon, Jo was given the nod from the start and his selection proved to be a masterstroke.
In particular, he made a series of fine saves as Korea Republic stunned defending champions Germany 2-0 in their final group game, and Jo went on to finish the year on a high as Daegu won the Korean FA Cup to qualify for next year’s AFC Champions League.
4) Mathew Ryan (Australia)
Arguably Asian football’s highest-profile goalkeeper at the moment, Mathew Ryan certainly needs no introduction given his status as a Premier League footballer with Brighton, as well as a former Asian Cup winner following Australia’s triumph in 2015.
Having previously had spells at Club Brugge and Valencia, Ryan has only gone from strength to strength and has more than held his own playing in English football’s top flight.
Still only 26, Ryan will be relishing the chance to help the Socceroos successfully defend his title and the fact that he is yet to reach his peak should bode well for their prospects.
5) Dang Van Lam (Vietnam)
Following their triumph at AFF Suzuki Cup 2018, there has been no shortage of new heroes emerging for Vietnam.
With much of the limelight on the lights of Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Cong Phuong and Phan Van Duc, goalkeeper Dang Van Lam was flown slightly under the radar but his importance to coach Park Hang-seo should not be underestimated.
For the first time in a long while, the Moscow-born custodian has provided the Golden Dragons with an authoritative presence between the sticks and, while not one to try anything fancy, Van Lam does the basics well and will get an even bigger stage to shine on at the Asian Cup.
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