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11 Players to Watch at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017

Asensio, Mabkhout and Da Silva set to shine…

Omar Gonzalez

Club: CF Pachuca

Position: Defender

Age: 28 years old

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Nationality: USA

Gonzalez is one of the most recognisable players in North America, given his success for both club and country. The former LA Galaxy defender won three MLS Cup’s during his time in Los Angeles, whilst a move to Pachuca has heralded similar results, picking up the Liga MX and CONCACAF Champions League titles in his first season. In the CCL Final, Gonzalez was applauded for containing Tigres star striker, Andre-Pierre Gingac and his partnership in defense with Columbian Oscar Murillo is considered the best in the league. Gonzalez has also represented the USA national team making more than 40 appearances, including being a member of the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.

 

Archaf Hakimi

Club: Real Madrid C.F.

Position: Defender

Age: 19 years old

Nationality: Morocco

Whilst you may not be too familiar with the Spanish born Moroccan, Archaf Hakimi has made a meteoric rise to the Castilla first team this season. Replacing the injured Dani Carvajal, the pacey wing-back has produced some outstanding performances for Madrid, resulting in call ups to the Moroccan national team in recent weeks. Archef ascent to glory could continue at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, with the youngster set to play a key role in coach Zinedine Zidane’s line-up. 

 

Theo Hernandez

Club: Real Madrid 

Position: Defender

Age: 19 years old

Nationality: France

Theo Hernandez was heavily in demand this summer, as the young defender’s versatile set of abilities caught the eye of many clubs, but Real Madrid were able to snatch him before anyone else for an impressive 20 million pounds. Hernandez’s high pace and energy, in addition to his occasional affinity for scoring goals, makes him a promising prospect for any team that he gets to play with. At the young age of 19, it’s not expected that Hernandez will make full appearances for the club just yet, especially with star defender Marcelo still being in great shape, but when he does play at the FIFA Club World Cup, he will be a delight for fans worldwide to watch.

 

Angel Berlanga

Club: Auckland City FC

Position: Defender

Age: 30 years old

Nationality: Spain

A Spanish-born defender, Angel Berlanga will be hoping to captain The Navy Blues to a FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 showdown with his hometown club, Real Madrid. The Spaniard is in his second stint at Auckland, following a successful spell between 2010-2013 where he helped the side to their successive run of OFC Champions League titles. In 2015, Berlanga returned to Auckland and helped guide The Navy Blues to one of their greatest seasons in their history, as they lifted the OFC President’s Cup, ASB Premiership, ASB minor premiership and a bronze medal at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.

 

Yosuke Kashiwagi

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Club: Urawa Red Diamonds

Position: Midfielder

Age: 29 years old

Nationality: Japan

Yosuke Kashiwagi played an instrumental part in Urawa Red’s march to AFC Champions League glory. The Japanese midfielder managed 5 assists and one goals during the tournament and comes into the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 in fine form. With 11 assists and 5 goals in this seasons Japanese J-League, Kashiwagi is in his prime and could be one of the most in demand players should he replicate his form in the UAE this December.

 

Marco Asensio

Club: Real Madrid C.F.

Position: Midfielder

Age: 21 years old

Nationality: Spain

Marco Asensio grabbed attention from the press and clubs alike long before he made his debut for Real Madrid as one of Spain’s most promising young talents, and his debut did not fail in proving that. Starting for Real Madrid in the critical UEFA Super Cup game against Sevilla, Asensio managed to score a brilliant screamer in the 26th minute to put his team in the lead. At the end of the 2016-2017 season, Asensio scored 10 goals for Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League. At age 21, he still has a lot to offer his team and has proven to be a reliable midfield option for Coach Zinedine Zidane.

 

Mbark Boussoufa

Club: Al Jazira
Position:
Attacking Midfielder
Age:
33 years old
Nationality:
Morocco

The experienced Moroccan maestro has a wealth of big club experience and could prove to be instrumental in his sides quest to progress to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 quarter-finals. Born in Amsterdam, Boussoufa was signed up by the infamous Ajax youth set up, before moving to London to play with Chelsea. A move to Belgium followed, where he was able to make a serious name for himself at Belgian giants Anderlecht, scoring 48 goals in 148 appearances. Since then, Mbark has gone on to make appearances for Lokomotiv Moscow and Anzhi Makhachkala, whilst he helped guide the Moroccan national team to top of their qualifying group for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.

 

Ryan De Vries

Club: Auckland City FC

Position: Midfielder

Age: 24 years old

Nationality: New Zealand

Born in South Africa, Ryan De Vries moved with to New Zealand with his family in 2008, where he would soon make his professional football debut with Waitakere United in 2010. He joined Auckland City in 2013. As of today, he has played over 90 games and scored more than 40 goals in the Sterling Sports Premiership. He won the Sterling Sports Premiership Golden Boot award in the 2015/2016 season after scoring 15 goals, which is the highest number of goals ever scored by a Golden Boot winner in the Premiership. He also played a crucial role in Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup third place win in 2014.

 

Ali Mabkhout

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Club: Al Jazira

Position: Striker

Age: 27 years old

Nationality: UAE

Ali Mabkhout’s journey to stardom is very different to some of his fellow ‘players to watch’. The UAE national joined Al Jazira as a youngster and it was there that his love for football and his club side were born. 13 years later, Mabkhout, now in his ninth season at the Abu Dhabi Club has scored 98 goals in 151 games for ‘Abu Dhabi Pride’ and averages a goal every 1.5 games. His performances last season propelled Al Jazira to the Arabian Gulf League title, having scored 33 goals in just 25 games. He also has an impressive international record, scoring 40 goals in 60 appearances. The goal-machine goes into the tournament in impressive form and could be a key player if Al Jazira progress to the next round.

 

Rafael Da Silva


Club:
Urawa Red Diamonds

Position: Striker

Age: 25 years old

Nationality: Brazil

 

The Brazilian superstar has been a in breath-taking form since joining Urawa in 2017. His eight goals in the AFC Champions League make him the third highest scorer in the competition, whilst his haul of 12 goals and five assists (to date) in the J1 League have made him a contender for Japan’s player of the year. Silva has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, his pace, fast feet and finishing can cause nightmares for the opposition defence – expect to see that in Urawa’s game versus either Al Jazira or Auckland City on 9 December.  

 

Achraf Bencharki

Club: Wydad Athletic Club

Position: Striker

Age: 23 years old

Nationality: Morocco

Like his Real Madrid namesake, Achraf Bencharki has made a glorious rise to the Wydad Atheltic Club first-team. The 23-year-old joined Wydad in 2016 and has since helped guide his side to the CAF Champions League 2017 title and qualification to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, scoring five goals and grabbing two assists in the process. His away goal in the first leg of the CAF Champions League final vs Al Ahly played a crucial role in his side’s victory. The Moroccan international will likely spearhead the Wydad attack as they go head to head with C.F. Pachuca on the 9 December. 

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