Iraq stars eye Asia prize

Iraqi stars Nashat Akram, Younis Mahmoud and Saudi striker Yasser Al Qahtani were named Friday as the final three players in contention for the AFC Player of the Year award.

The list was whittled down from seven with Japanese duo Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Ono, and Iranian pair Javad Nekounam and Mohamad Salehi Mehdi axed.

Inspired by captain Younis and the creative guile of Nashat, Iraq cast aside the troubles in their homeland to win the Asian Cup final in July against three-time champions Saudi Arabia.

Al Qahtani finished the tournament joint-top scorer along with Younis and Naohiro Takahara of Japan.

Not surprisingly, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are nominated for the Asian Football Confederation National Team of the Year award, along with Korea Republic.

AFC Coach of the Year, reserved exclusively for Asians who have made an impact at AFC or FIFA competitions with Asian teams, will be contested by Amir Ghalenhoy and Rauf Inileev, who coached Iran and Uzbekistan respectively.

Kim Hak-bum, coach of Korean club side Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, is also on the shortlist.

The AFC said that two Japanese players - Yasuhito Morishima and Yoichiro Kakitani - are among three candidates for Youth Player of the Year, along with Korea DPR's Kim Kum-il.

Club of the Year is between Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates, Iran's Sepahan, Seongnam, and AFC Champions League winners Urawa Reds of Japan.

The awards will be presented in Sydney next Wednesday.