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Kuala Lumpur: With the countdown to the AFC U-19 Championship reaching its final days, identifies a player from each competing nation to keep a close eye on in Nanjing.

Ellie Carpenter - Australia

Few current players in world football have achieved so much at such a young age.

An established member of the World No 6 senior Australian national team, and the youngest ever player to appear in the Olympic football tournament, Carpenter finds herself in the unique position of being a ‘senior’ player in Gary van Egmond’s squad, despite being only 17 years old.

The first player born in the 21st century to represent Australia at the senior level, the talented full-back arrives in China having started both of the Matildas’ September wins over Brazil.

Wang Yanwen - China PR

The striker from Dalian made her name at continental level with a superb individual display, which saw her claim the Golden Boot at the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Wuhan two years ago.

Wang’s six goals in five matches included a brace against Thailand in the play-off for third place, as her side narrowly missed out on FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup qualification.

The 18-year-old has been in good form in recent matches, scoring a superb individual 93rd minute equaliser in China PR’s 1-1 draw with Japan in Duyun last month.

Ri Hae-yon - DPR Korea

After scoring six goals in four matches as a 14-year-old in the 2013 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship, Ri Hae-yon was then voted the tournament MVP as DPR Korea claimed the continental U-16 title two years later having added decisive goals in both the semi-final win over China PR and in the final against Japan.

The supremely talented Ri took her talents to a global audience in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan last October, scoring five of DPR Korea’s 12 goals as they claimed their second world title.

Riko Ueki - Japan

Labelled a “wonderkid” during last year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, Ueki lived up to her billing from the very beginning of the tournament, opening Japan’s account just six minutes into their first match against Ghana – and only got better from there.

Another goal, this time against the United States, was followed by a quarter-final double against England, as Ueki helped her side reach final, where they were beaten on penalties by DPR Korea.

This is her second continental championship, having also appeared at the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in 2015, contributing three goals as Japan reached the final.

Mun Eun-ju - Korea Republic

One highlight of Korea Republic’s somewhat ill-fated 2015 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship campaign was the emergence of Mun Eun-ju.

The then 15-year-old began the tournament as a substitute, coming off the bench to score a 94th minute equaliser against China PR, before being promoted to the starting side and finding the net again in a 5-0 win over IR Iran.

Now 17, and still in high school, Mun will look to help Korea Republic to a fifth-consecutive qualification for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

Kanyanat Chetthabutr - Thailand

No player did more to secure Thailand’s place in China 2017 than Kanyanat, who piled on eight goals in just three qualifying matches.

A first-up hat-trick against Kyrgyz Republic was followed by a haul of four goals against Palestine two days later, before the forward scored the opening goal in Thailand’s decisive win over Myanmar.

But fans will need to wait until Matchday Two to see her in action; Kanyanat is suspended for Thailand’s opening match against DPR Korea after she was sent off late in the 2-1 win over Myanmar.

Shahnoza Kurbonova - Uzbekistan

Despite only turning 17 in May, Kurbonova has been part of national squads at AFC tournaments spanning multiple age levels.

The forward once scored seven goals in a single AFC U-16 Women’s Championship qualifier against Bahrain, and scored three in as many matches to help Uzbekistan book their place in Nanjing.


The young forward was part of Uzbekistan’s senior squad as they attempted to qualify for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, but did not feature in any matches.

Nguyen Thi Minh Anh - Vietnam

The defender (picture below, No 5) captained Vietnam through their successful qualifying campaign, playing every minute as the Southeast Asians comfortably saw off India and Iran on home soil.

More recently she has been one of the youngest players to train with Mai Duc Chung’s Vietnamese senior women’s national team, and only narrowly missed selection for their gold-medal-winning SEA Games campaign in Malaysia in August.


Photos: FIFA/Getty Images, Lagardère Sports, AFC