Players to watch in Group C at the Asian Cup
SYDNEY (AP) — IRAN
Javad Nekounam — 33, midfielder, Osasuna. Captain and talisman of Team Melli, Nekounam is a technically gifted, skillful midfielder who has vast World Cup and Asian Cup experience. Spent six seasons at Osasuna, becoming the first Iranian to be signed by a Spanish club. Left Osasuna in 2012 for brief stints with Esteghlan and Al-Kuwait before returning in 2014.
Ashkan Dejagah — 28, midfielder, Al Arabi. A right winger who played for Germany at youth level. He has a Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg.
Reza Ghoochannejhad — 26, striker, Al Kuwait. Fast, athletic striker who was equal-top scorer in qualifying with five goals. The former Charlton striker has also had stints in Belgium and the Netherlands, where he played as a youth international.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Ali Mabkhout — 24, striker, Al Jazira. A striker in top form for club and country. Leading scorer at the recent Gulf Cup with five goals, Mabkhout has also taken club Al Jazira to the top of the Arabian Gulf League.
Omar Abdulrahman — 23, midfielder, Al Ain. A rising star in Asian football, adept at either a wide attacking role or striker. Abdulrahman was player of the tournament at the 2013 Gulf Cup, won by the UAE.
Amer Abdulrahman — 25, midfielder, Baniyas. Diminutive central midfielder, provides both steel and craft in UAE’s engine room.
Khalfan Ibrahim — 26, midfielder, Al Sadd. Former Asian player of the year with more than 80 caps and 20 goals for Qatar, Ibrahim is a talented winger who creates chances for himself and others.
Mohammed Montari — 21, striker, El Jaish. An international rookie, the naturalized Qatari citizen has been picked ahead of 100-cap veteran Sebastian Soria after his fine form in the Qatar Stars League.
Boualem Khoukhi — 24, winger, Al Arabi. A fast winger, the former Algerian Under-23 international scored the winning goal in the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations final and is dangerous from set pieces.
Mohamed Husain — 34, defender, Al-Nassr, Saudi Arabia. Captain who brings experience of two previous Asian Cup campaigns, including a fourth-place finish in 2004, Bahrain’s best-ever showing at the tournament.
Ismail Abdul-Latif — 28, striker, Al Ahli, Qatar. Favored ahead of Jaycee John, Abdul Latif is Bahrain’s leading international goal-scorer. He scored a twice against Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Dec. 31 and will hold his nation’s hopes of advancing out of the group.
Sayed Jafer — 29, goalkeeper, Al-Muharraq. One of seven players selected by national coach Marjan Eid from Bahraini Premier League runners-up Al Muharraq, Jafer will captain the Reds in Australia. The experienced goalkeeper was a member of the 2004 Asian Cup squad.