A Review Of Goalkeeping At The 2024 AFC Asian Cup

By Alex Roberts

News • Feb 16, 2024

A Review Of Goalkeeping At The 2024 AFC Asian Cup

The 2024 Asian Cup has come and gone with Qatar taking the trophy back to sunny Doha following a 3-1 win against Jordan in the final. In the end it was three penalties from their talismanic forward Akram Afif that sealed it for the host nation.

But we’re not here to talk about goal scorers. We’re here to talk about goal stoppers. 

The Asian Cup may not always showcase names of the profile like the Euros or even the Copa America bring, but that doesn’t mean its quality should be dismissed. 

Top class goalkeepers like Ali Al-Habsi, Mark Schwarzer, and Mohamed Al-Deayea have all earned their stripes competing in the continent’s premier international tournament, with Al-Deayea being the most capped goalkeeper in history.

It’s a tournament with a storied history, and a huge opportunity for goalkeepers from across such a vast swathe of lands to show exactly what they can do, especially those playing for smaller nations. 

According to Malaysian goalkeeper coach Wei Xian Ng, Goalkeeper Coach at Perak FC, the Asian Cup is a "massive opportunity for every goalkeeper representing their country for a variety of reasons.”

“For goalkeepers from smaller Asian countries such as Malaysia, it’s a chance to get the attention of clubs from larger countries which may give you an opportunity to move to better leagues in the region,” he added.

Malaysia’s very own Syihan Hazmi is a perfect example. “Malaysia’s goalkeeper recently garnered a bit of attention from the South Korean media due to his performance in the 3-3 draw between South Korea and Malaysia and other goalkeepers from the region have gotten opportunities to go on trial overseas due to good performances for the national team,” said Ng.

Hazmi wasn’t the only goalkeeper making waves over in Qatar this year, with players from Jordan to Australia impressing throughout the competition. 

As Ng went on to observe, “The obvious name that stands out is Meshaal Barsham who was named the goalkeeper of the tournament, and you can see why as he plays for the team that won, winning it in his home country, and making several big saves on the way to the final including saving three penalties in a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals.” 

“However, I personally think if Qatar hadn’t won the tournament, Jo Hyeon-Woo of South Korea would potentially have gotten the award instead with arguably bigger saves in the knockout stages despite his team not going all the way” he added, going on to say that “Another goalkeeper that caught my eye was Yazeed Abulaila (Jordan) with his consistent performances that helped his team reach the final.” 

Every major international tournament has a breakout star. Think James Rodriguez scoring one of the World Cup’s greatest ever goals in 2014, earning himself a big move to Real Madrid. At this year’s Asian Cup, that breakout star may well have been Kyrgyzstan’s number one, Erzhan Tokotaev.

“At 23 years of age Tokotaev would be one of the youngest goalkeepers at the tournament. But he’s taken the responsibility of being Kyrgyzstan’s number one in his stride and made some eye-catching performances with some of the best saves I’ve seen in the tournament,” said  Ng

“While the execution of his saves in terms of parrying to safe areas could be improved, his shot-stopping and pure ability to make big saves impressed me as he was repeatedly called upon in every match he played,” he added.

“He currently plays in the Turkish second division and I believe he has the potential to be a real shining light for his national team in the coming years,” he said.

With every stand-out player, there are always those we want to see more from. Japan’s Zion Suzuki is arguably one of the best young goalkeeping talents in the world right now. Having reportedly just turned down a move to Manchester United in favour of a move to Belgian Pro League side, Sint-Truidense, more was expected from Suzuki, especially since he was playing for the pre-tournament favourites.

“I must admit I believe his performances during the tournament were rather underwhelming and there were at least three or four goals conceded that I would look at as a goalkeeping coach and be disappointed with,” said  Ng.

“You could attribute those mistakes to a variety of factors like inexperience, or the pressure getting to him, but I don’t think you could use those as excuses especially for a goalkeeper of his supposed calibre,” he added.

It wasn’t all bad for Suzuki though, there was one aspect of his game that impressed Ng. “His passing range did impress me, having the accuracy and touch to find medium range passes into teammates in pockets as well as the distance to exploit spaces in-behind opponents,” he said.

There are several goalkeeping talents across the Asian continent, and perhaps we shouldn't always view a move to Europe as the defining marker of success in a professional career.

Nonetheless, “of all the goalkeepers that played in this year’s tournament who aren’t already playing in Europe, I don’t see any obvious ones who would be going over to play,” said Ng.

“This may not be down to reasons such as a lack of ability, but quite simply the ones that are at the level to play in Europe already are, and the best ones out of those who aren’t in Europe are playing in some of the top leagues in Asia already,” he added.

“While most people would see playing in Europe as a big achievement in general, I would argue that the top leagues in Asia such as the Saudi Pro League, J-League (Japan) and K-League (Korea) are currently at a better standard and are more competitive than a number of top flight leagues in Europe,” said Ng.

People perhaps forget just how big Asia is, and the Asian Cup is a reflection of the almost unfathomable number of cultures represented by its participants. It’s only going to get bigger, and with it so will the goalkeepers. 

Shop featured products
Related Editorials
Read All Posts

Copyright 2022 Goalkeeper. All Rights Reserved.