2018 World Cup Match Day 2: The Asian Top 5

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

In this special World Cup edition of The Top 5, “Same Same But Different: Your Asian Football Show” picks the five Asian players that starred on Match Day 2.

So, after Match Day 2 of the group stage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the picture is much clearer for Asia’s hopefuls and it isn’t a totally positive one.

Saudi Arabia are out, while Australia, Korea Republic and Iran are on the brink of elimination, needing results to go their way if they are to reach the Round of 16.

Only Japan remain in a strong position sitting joint-top of Group H, with a final match against Poland to come.

While things have not exactly been smooth sailing for all teams, there have been certain players who have given an excellent account of themselves with fine individual displays.

Here, FOX Sports Asia picks The Top 5 from the Match Day 2 action at Russia 2018.

Osama Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia)

Hawsawi completely nullified the threat of Edinson Cavani.

It was another disappointing outing for Saudi Arabia as their World Cup dream came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay but, unlike in their 5-0 defeat to Russia, they certainly can be proud of their efforts.

A costly error by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais gifted Luis Suarez what proved to be winning goal but, other than that, the Uruguayans rarely threatened and it was the Saudis who actually looked the more dangerous side as the game wore on.

Plenty of credit has to go to captain Osama Hawsawi who, at the age of 34, continues to play a crucial role and had Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani in his pocket throughout the 90 minutes.

Mehdi Taremi (Iran)

Taremi gave the Spain defence plenty of headaches throughout the 90 minutes.

Mehdi Taremi may not be one of Iran’s more-illustrious names as, while others ply their trade all across Europe, he remains in Asia’s humbler settings with Qatari outfit Al Gharafa.

But, having been given the nod against Spain ahead of Alireza Jahanbakhsh – the top scorer in the Eredivisie this past season – Taremi fully repaid the faith shown in him by coach Carlos Queiroz.

Initially, when Team Melli were under siege, Taremi performed admirably as an auxiliary right-back yet, when they needed a goal after falling behind, the powerfully-built forward was a constant threat to the Spanish backline and might have emerged as a real hero had his finishing and composure been better.

Mathew Leckie (Australia)

Leckie is evolving into one of the Socceroos’ most-influential players.

Australia have it all to do if they are to reach the Round of 16 after picking up just one point from their opening two matches, needing to beat Peru on Tuesday and hoping for a favourable result in the clash between France and Denmark.

However, it certainly has not been through any lack of endeavour and one man who has personified their plucky displays has been Mathew Leckie.

As he showed in the 1-1 draw against Denmark, the Hertha Berlin man is never afraid to take his man on and also regularly finds himself in promising positions, and he could just be key to the Socceroos keeping their end of the deal by beating the Peruvians.

Son Heung-min (Korea Republic)

Son has been one of the few bright lights for Korea Republic thus far.

After his brilliant displays over the past couple of seasons with Tottenham, every team would by now be aware of the threat Son Heung-min poses. Knowing is one thing, being able to stop him is a completely different proposition altogether.

Despite – at times – having to do everything on his own in the attacking third, Son has never wavered and is starting to step up as a real leader for the Taegeuk Warriors.

With his pace and guile, the 25-year-old almost singlehandedly carved apart Mexico’s defence and, while the South Koreans ultimately fell to a 2-1 loss, he had the consolation of scoring a sublime goal – receiving possession on the edge of the box and bending an unstoppable effort into the far corner.

Yuto Nagatomo (Japan)

He may now be approaching the end of what has been a fine career and there were some question marks over Yuto Nagatomo heading into the World Cup.

But, in the past two matches, the 31-year-old has shown why he made over 200 appearances for Serie A giants Inter Milan and remains the Samurai Blue‘s best choice at left-back.

In Japan’s 2-2 draw with Senegal, Nagatomo more than held his own against his pacy 20-year-old opponent Ismaila Sarr and also pushed forward to good effect, brilliantly bringing down a 50-yard pass and feeding it to Takashi Inui for Japan’s first equaliser.

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