(IranSportsPress.com-AFC)- The 2018 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers kicks off in under a fortnight, and Asia’s young elite will be taking centre stage, hoping to help their nations to glory.
With 40 teams, from West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, ASEAN and East Asia, there are some superbly talented young players set to strut their stuff, many of whom have already been capped at the senior international level or are key players at club level.
We look back at five of the continent’s current stars who appeared in the previous two editions of qualifying for the AFC U-23 Championship (formerly known as the AFC U-22 Championship) and excelled.
Sardar Azmoun, Islamic Republic of Iran
Now a bonafide star and first-choice striker of Iran’s senior national time, Azmoun was part of an U-23 Iran side that was joint-top scorers in qualifying for the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship.
The young Team Melli netted 15 times in qualifying for Qatar 2016 and the then 20-year-old Azmoun – who had already shown his potential at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia – was in fine form, netting four times.
Azmoun was not among the players at the 2016 finals – by then Team Melli’s starting centre-forward – but he played a key role in helping his U-23 team-mates secure their place.