It’s been an exciting year for ASEAN football with some splendid displays at the international stage coming from the likes of Vietnam and Thailand who began the year reaching the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
There were also a few creditable outings from the likes of Myanmar, who stunned Tajikistan 4-3 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, and Philippines who held China PR to a goalless draw in the same competition while Malaysia have continued their upward trajectory under Tang Cheng Hoe.
Here, we try to pick a best 11 of Southeast Asian footballers who have impressed at the international arena in 2019…
Siwarak Tedsungnoen (Thailand)
Siwarak Tedsungnoen did not begin the year as the first-choice goalkeeper for Thailand, but the 35-year-old ends the year as their main man between the sticks. It was Chatchai Budprom who was preferred in the goal by Milovan Rajevac at last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and the AFC Asian Cup at the start of the year after an injury to Kawin Thamsatchanan. However, Chatchai’s error-prone goalkeeping during the continental championship made way for the Buriram United custodian who hasn’t relinquished his position ever since.
Que Ngoc Hai (Vietnam)
Que Ngoc Hai was the captain and leader for the Golden Dragons as they had a solid season in international football reaching the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup and topping their ASEAN-heavy group in the World Cup Qualifiers with three matches left. The 26-year-old also popped up to score the odd goal in 2019 finding the back of the net against Yemen in the Asian championship and in a 3-1 win over Indonesia in the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round. A the club level, Ngoc Hai helped the newly-promoted Viettel FC finish a creditable sixth place in V.League 1 — only three points short of a place in the group stages of the AFC Cup 2020.
Doan Van Hau (Vietnam)
Doan Van Hau took the leap of faith by signing for Dutch Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen on loan back in September and it looks like the gamble is finally paying off with the Vietnam full-back making his first-team debut only this week. At the international level, Van Hau has operated as a left-back in Park Hang-seo’s 5-4-1 formation playing a starring role in the Asian Cup as well as the World Cup Qualifiers. And to cap off the year, the 20-year-old scored a brace in the final of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Philippines as Vietnam U-22s downed Indonesia 3-0 to win their first ever SEA Games men’s football gold medal.
Theerathon Bunmathan (Thailand)
Another full-back, Yokohama F. Marinos’ Theerathon Bunmathan created history in 2019 by becoming the first ASEAN footballer to win the J.League title. The 29-year-old Thailand international scored once and assisted once against Yokohama’s closest rivals FC Tokyo in a 3-0 win to secure the Japanese top division title for Ange Postecoglou’s side. Theerathon is now expected to remain in Japan for another season which will only be good news to the Thai fans as he competes with some of the best footballers in Asia honing his skills even further. For his travails, he has also featured in the 24-man shortlist for the Best Footballer in Asia 2019 award.
Stephan Schrock (Philippines)
Hands down the best player for Philippines at the international stage in recent years, Stephan Schrock also created some history by scoring the Azkals’ first-ever goal in the AFC Asian Cup when he netted against Kyrgyz Republic in the group stages. Schrock has taken up positions in the defence, midfield and even along the wings for Philippines underlining his utility in Scott Cooper’s side. The Germany-born star was also impressive as one of the two overage players in the Philippines U-22 squad that took part in the SEA Games 2019. The 33-year-old also led his club Ceres-Negros FC to their third successive Philippines Football League title and the ASEAN Zonal Semifinals of the AFC Cup 2019 where they lost to Vietnamese champions Hanoi FC 3-2 over two legs.
Hlaing Bo Bo (Myanmar)
Hlaing Bo Bo ended 2018 scoring twice in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 and featuring in the tournament’s Best 11. And in 2019, he picked up from where he left off starring for a new-look Myanmar national team under Miodrag Radulovic. However with performance deteriorating under the Montenegrin, Myanmar Football Federation have recalled former coach Antoine Hey that has reignited the 23-year-old and the Asian Lions. The Yadanarbon FC central midfielder has scored twice for the senior team in 2019 as well as captained the Myanmar U-22s to a bronze medal in the SEA Games.
Do Hung Dung (Vietnam)
The 26-year-old Hanoi FC man has established himself at the heart of the Vietnam midfield in 2019 and has been a permanent fixture in Park Hang-seo’s squad during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. In the absence of injured Nguyen Quang Hai, Hung Dung also captained the Vietnam U-22s to their first-ever gold medal at the SEA Games 2019. At the club level, the central midfielder also helped Hanoi FC win another V.League 1 title this season and powered the Capital Team to a historic appearance in the Inter-Zone Play-Off Final of the AFC Cup 2019 where they lost narrowly to DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC.
Chanathip Songkrasin (Thailand)
Chanathip Songkrasin has been in fine form for the Thailand national team who have had a tumultuous time passing through the hands of three different coaches. However, the 26-year-old has been a consistent performer for Changsuek through 2019, be it under Milovan Rajevac, Sirisak Yodyardthai or Akira Nishino, scoring winning goals against Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and against Fabio Cannavaro’s China PR in China Cup 2019. Messi Jay also scored four and assisted seven goals for his J1 League club Consadole Sapporo as they finished 10th in the Japanese top division.
Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)
Vietnam superstar Nguyen Quang Hai once again took the Vietnam national team under his wings in 2019 guiding them to the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and also helping them top their World Cup Qualifiers group. He was also included in the Vietnam U-22 squad for the SEA Games 2019, but missed the later stages of the competition as they secured a historic gold at the Southeast Asian Games. The 22-year-old also starred for Hanoi FC as they won their fifth V.League 1 title and a first-ever Vietnamese National Cup. Quang Hai also shined in the AFC Cup scoring a brace against Altyn Asyr FC in the Inter-Zone Play-Off Semifinals, but couldn’t guide the Purple-Yellows past 4.25 SC in the Inter-Zone Final.
Safawi Rasid (Malaysia)
22-year-old Safawi Rasid has been indispensable for Malaysia national team as well as Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) during 2019. He has struck six goals for Harimau Malaya including braces against Timor-Leste and Indonesia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. He also put his left foot to good use in the AFC Champions League 2019 for the Southern Tigers scoring a stunner against Shandong Luneng which will surely go down as one of the best goals scored in the continental competition in recent years. Safawi also featured for the Malaysia U-22s during the 2020 AFC U23 Championship Qualifiers where the Harimau Muda narrowly missed out on qualification to China PR, but was rested by Ong Kim Swee for the 2019 SEA Games.
Ikhsan Fandi (Singapore)
Singapore have collected seven points from five matches in the World Cup Qualifiers so far and sit only two points behind Group D leaders Uzbekistan and one point behind second-placed Saudi Arabia who have a game in hand. And a good share of the credit for their commendable performance should go to their 20-year-old striker Ikhsan Fandi who has netted three goals in five matches at the qualifiers so far. He was also part of the Singapore U-22s who disappointed at the SEA Games 2019, but Ikhsan did score a hattrick against Brunei Darussalam before bowing out of the competition. At the club level, Fandi Ahmad’s son established himself at Norwegian second division side Raufoss IL scoring six and assisting once in 28 matches this season.
Honourable mentions: Neil Etheridge (Philippines), Alvaro Silva (Philippines), Evan Dimas (Indonesia), Keo Sokpheng (Cambodia), Faris Ramli (Singapore)