Asia 50, 2017: A groundbreaking Indonesian helps kick things off
No.50 Boaz Solossa
Solossa is the first Indonesian to crack our Asia 50 and we think that’s just reward for a player widely considered the country’s best talent since the Bambang Pamungkas era ended in 2012.
While he may no longer possess quite the same speed as when he burst onto the scene back at the 2004 AFF Championship, known then as the Tiger Cup, his leadership on and off the field has been an example for every Indonesian footballer to follow.
Even when the country faced a 12-month FIFA ban, Boaz ensured his skills and determination remained intact for their expected return and he duly would play a starring role as Merah Putih made it all the way to the 2016 Suzuki Cup final.
They would fall just short in the decider against Thailand, but Boaz earned great praise from his teammates.
“Boaz has a lot of experience and he was the right man to be our captain,” fellow Indonesian star Andik Vermansyah said. “In the final against Thailand, he played really, really well. He is always so calm, but out on the field his determination is always very high.”
Boaz also enjoyed club success, winning the 2016 Indonesia Soccer Championship, contributing 11 goals and three assists along the way. – Tio Utomo
No.49 Theerathon Bunmathan
Theerathon surprised Thai football fans by moving from Buriram United to fierce rivals Muangthong United in the second half of last season. The move proved an astute one, however, after the Twin Qilins secured a Thai League and FA Cup double.
The 27-year-old possesses all the skills required of a top-shelf left-back and is also a set-piece specialist when it comes to free-kicks and corners.
He can also be pushed forward to act as a winger or midfielder if required.
A brilliant free-kick against Kashima Antlers in the AFC Champions League in February underlined his dead-ball ability, his fifth goal from a free-kick in that competition.
He also recently scored another of his famous goals directly from a corner against Bangkok United. – Kritikorn Thanamahamongkhol
No.48 Nawaf Al-Abed
Having shot to international prominence as a teenager in 2009 when he scored what’s believed to be the fastest goal in the history of professional football – catching the keeper off-guard after just two seconds – the Saudi international’s career has continued on an upward trajectory ever since.
Famed for his acrobatic goal-scoring celebrations, he’s had plenty of occasions to use them given his highlight reel collection of wonderful strikes.
Naturally a left-footed player, the 27-year-old is just as capable with his right and for a player on the smaller side (1.68m) he’s also scored his fair share of headers.
A key cog in the Al Hilal side that swept all before it in the domestic league this season, losing just twice in finishing a full 11 points ahead of Al-Ahli, Al Abed chipped in with seven goals across the campaign and was also a key contributor in the team’s charge to the Round of 16 in the Asian Champions League (ACL).
At national level he’s starred too, starting each of the Saudis’ final World Cup qualifying group stage matches and scoring in three of them to confirm his place as one of the most influential midfielders in Asian football. – Scott McIntyre
No.47 Mat Ryan
Last year the Aussie shot-stopper was No.12 on our list, a slight drop from No.8 the previous year, but he hasn’t been able to maintain those lofty standards, falling all the way to 47th in 2017.
Over the past 12 months, Ryan hasn’t been able to take the next step in his career that he would have anticipated, largely due to injury and a lack of opportunities.
He only managed 23 appearances over two seasons with Valencia, opting to take up a switch to Belgian club Genk in January 2017, on loan from La Liga.
It was an understandable move from the Socceroo, who really launched his career in the Belgian league when he represented Club Brugge from 2013-2015.
Voted the best Goalkeeper in Belgium in 2014 and 2015, he played 102 games for Brugge and won the 2015 Belgian Cup before moving to Spain.
With Genk, he conceded 15 goals from 19 appearances this season. It will be interesting to see whether he returns to Spain at the end of his loan spell or opts to continue his career elsewhere. – Tio Utomo
No.46 Karim Ansarifard
Once named in a FIFA list of youngsters to watch back in 2012, the 27-year-old striker has yet to make quite the impact expected of him in Europe.
Shifting around a number of Iranian clubs and having one season with Osasuna in Spain, Ansarifard moved to Greece in 2015 to revive his career and did just that after scoring 11 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions last season with Panionios.
He reportedly attracted offers from AEK, PAOK, Feyenoord and Marseille before moving to Greek champions Olympiacos in January 2017.
The Iranian international’s brace in the first knockout stage of this year’s Europa League then carried Olympiacos into the round of 16, where they would bow out against Turkish giants Besiktas.
Ansarifard could have an even bigger 2018 ahead, with league champions Olympiacos once again involved in next year’s Champions League and Iran topping their 2018 World Cup qualifying group following an unbeaten third round to date. – Vijhay Vick