The AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ promises plenty of goals as Qatar is set to host 51 thrilling matches in the continental showpiece, starting with the curtain raiser between the hosts and Lebanon on Friday and culminating in the final on February 10.
The tournament, first played in 1956, has over the years witnessed plenty of incredible attackers – be it Islamic Republic of Iran legend Ali Daei in 1996, Iraq’s inspirational leader Younis Mahmoud in 2007 or Almoez Ali who guided Qatar to their very first Asian crown in 2019.
The 18th edition of the tournament is also not short of attacking talent who will try to make an indelible mark in Asia, so join the-AFC.com as we take a look at five individuals who could prove to be the biggest goal threats at the upcoming AFC Asian Cup.
Mehdi Taremi is in the best form of his life for IR Iran and he is in Qatar trying to make some amends. The striker scored thrice as Team Melli reached the semi-finals in 2019 but lost 3-0 to Japan with Taremi suspended for the crucial fixture after picking up his second yellow card in the quarter-final win over China PR.
The 31-year-old amassed an impressive 12 international goals during the 2023 calendar year, which included hat-tricks against Afghanistan and Kyrgyz Republic in the CAFA (Central Asian Football Association) Nations Cup in June and goals against Hong Kong and Uzbekistan in November.
Taremi also remains a key player for FC Porto and won the Primeira Liga Golden Boot last season with a superb 22-goal haul as he continues to collect silverware in his fifth season in Portugal – all of which goes to show that he will be one to watch in Qatar.
Qatar striker Almoez Ali has taken part in only one AFC Asian Cup but the 2019 tournament was enough to write the then 22-year-old’s name into the history books as his nine goals – the most by a player in a single edition – powered Felix Sanchez’s side to a historic maiden Asian crown in the United Arab Emirates.
Since then, the 2019 tournament’s MVP has continued to collect accolades, winning the Qatar Stars League title in 2020 and 2023 and the Amir Cup in 2019 and 2022 with his club side Al Duhail SC. But it is with the national team that Ali has truly earned his reputation as one of the most feared strikers on the continent.
Ali, who won the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup golden boot with four goals, is once again in scintillating form heading into a major tournament – having bagged four goals against Afghanistan before adding another in a 3-0 defeat of India in Qatar’s last two competitive outings in November.
If his displays in the Premier League this season are anything to go by, Hwang Hee-chan is poised to shine brightly at the AFC Asian Cup for Jurgen Klinsmann’s Korea Republic as they set their sights on becoming Asian champions for the first time since 1960.
After accounting for only league eight goals during his first two seasons with Wolves, the Korean forward has been red hot this campaign at Molineux, racking up 10 goals already – more than any Wolves player since the 2019/20 season – and drawing comparisons with compatriot Son Heung-min who has also been a prolific scorer in England.
In Hwang, Klinsmann has a star who is effective across the forward line and there’s no doubt that the 27-year-old will create plenty of problems for opposition defences in the AFC Asian Cup, especially with creative talents like Son, Lee Kang-in and Cho Gue-sung supporting him in the Taeguk Warriors line-up.
A modern-day legend of Asian football, United Arab Emirates captain Ali Mabkhout continues to shoulder the goalscoring responsibility for his nation as the 33-year-old makes his third appearance in the AFC Asian Cup in a year that marks the 15th anniversary of his international debut.
With five goals in his debut campaign in 2015 when the Whites finished third and four goals as they reached the semi-final again in 2019, Mabkhout has always delivered for the Emiratis in the tournament and is joint-third among its all-time leading goalscorers – only behind the legendary duo of Ali Daei and Lee Dong-gook.
But with the Emiratis yet to win the coveted title despite reaching the semi-finals on four occasions, and also considering five goals in Qatar will be enough to help him match the record of Daei, the Al Jazira striker will be as driven as ever to excel for the UAE for the third time running in Asia.
Ayase Ueda turned professional with Kashima Antlers in 2019 and his goalscoring exploits in the J1 League over four seasons earned him a move to Cercle Brugge in 2022. But his stay in Belgium was short as a prolific campaign where he bagged 22 league goals saw him move across the border to the Netherlands the following season.
Signing for Feyenoord and taking the number 9 shirt, the 25-year-old bagged his first goal for the Eredivisie champions in a 5-1 win against FC Utrecht in September. However, his involvement with the Dutch side has been limited to regular cameos from the bench during the first four months with his new club.
But the striker continues to have the trust of Hajime Moriyasu, who started him in both of Japan’s Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ ties so far, and Ueda repaid that faith with a hat-trick to defeat Myanmar and a brace against Syria.
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga