Looking to impress: 5 Asian hot prospects to keep an eye out for at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Still only 21 but having starred at last year's Tokyo Olympics, Japan's Takefusa Kubo is shaping up as one of the talented young prospects to keep a close eye on at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Lars Baron/Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup has long been a platform not just for established stars to enhance their reputations, but also for young guns to burst onto the scene and make a name of themselves.

Through the years, some of Asia's brightest prospects have used the tournament as to showcase their ability, eventually gaining prominence and even earning dream moves to Europe on the back of their performances at a World Cup.

- 2022 World Cup: All squad lists for Qatar

Japan legend Hidetoshi Nakata is arguably the most famous example after he moved to Serie A with Perugia after some eye-catching displays at France 1998, while Porto striker Mehdi Taremi and Mainz playmaker Lee Jae-Sung were two who made their way over to Europe soon after the last World Cup in Russia.

With the tournament once again upon us, we look at five hot prospects hailing from Asia to keep a close eye on.

Akram Afif (Qatar)

Granted, Akram Afif does not exactly belong in the 'young' or 'inexperienced' category.

Turning 26 two days before Qatar open their campaign against Ecuador, he already has a staggering 88 caps to his name, has an AFC Asian Cup winner's medal to his name, and was named the Asian Footballer of the Year in 2019.

But Akram is one of those players who are perhaps not as well known outside of his home country, or Asia, who could potentially gain wider recognition at this World Cup.

Although he never featured for the first team during his time on the books of LaLiga outfit Villarreal, the wide attacker does have European experience from loan spells at Sporting Gijon and Eupen but has since returned to the Qatar Stars League with Al Sadd.

Boasting breathtaking speed and skill, Akram -- who registered ten assists in just seven games in Qatar's Asian Cup-winning campaign in 2019 -- should be looking to take his career further by convincing possible suitors to bring him back to Europe.

Omid Noorafkan (Iran)

In recent years, Iran have had no shortage of players that have proven to be good enough to make the grade in Europe -- and Omid Noorafkan could be the next to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh to name but a few.

Like Akram, Noorafkan is far from a raw talent at the age of 25, and he did previously briefly feature in the Belgian top flight with Charleroi.

Now back in Iran with Sepahan, Noorafkan has established himself as one of the Persian Gulf Pro League's most-consistent performers, while also proving to be a handy asset with his versatility.

Equally adept at left-back and in a defensive midfield role, Noorafkan may not be an automatic starter in what will be a formidable starting XI that Team Melli coach Carlos Queiroz will be fielding, but he is a player capable of making an impact even as an option off the bench.

Firas Al-Buraikan (Saudi Arabia)

With Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard usually opting to play a lone striker, it will be a two-way battle between Saleh Al-Shehri and Firas Al-Buraikan to lead the attack at the World Cup.

Renard has not been averse to rotate and give them each a fair go, which was the case in the Asian qualifiers for the tournament, which means that Al-Buraikan could potentially get his chance to shine.

The most-capped of three strikers in the squad, Al-Buraikan may not be the most-involved of spearheads in the build-up, but he possesses an excellent turn of pace, clinical finishing and -- perhaps most importantly -- a killer instinct in front of goal.

Given the Green Falcons are likely to be on the back foot for most of the game against Argentina, Mexico and Poland, a poacher like the Al Fateh man could just prove to be their best option of getting a goal on the counterattack.

Takefusa Kubo (Japan)

There has perhaps been no Asian prospect in recent times that has been treated with as much anticipation and pressure than Takefusa Kubo, who can already claim to having been on the books of LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid -- at the age of just 21.

While neither of those moves worked out for differing reasons, the left-footed playmaker -- often hyped as "the Japanese Messi" -- looks to have finally found the perfect club to fulfil his potential in Real Sociedad.

Kubo has featured prominently for the Spanish side so far this season, even producing a star turn in a 1-0 victory over Manchester United in the Europa League back in September.

With 19 caps to his name already, Kubo was a key player in the under-23 Samurai Blue side that finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics -- netting three goals in the competition, which included crucial efforts against South Africa and Mexico.

With Japan looking slightly lightweight in attack, Kubo could once again be required to lead the way in spite of his tender years.

Lee Kang-in (South Korea)

While Japan are highly likely to rely heavily on Kubo, it remains to be seen how prominent a role South Korea's similarly-talented playmaker Lee Kang-In will play in Qatar.

Also 21 and having come through the ranks of Valencia, Lee and Kubo were both team-mates at Mallorca last season and it is there where the South Korean has likewise made an impressive start to the campaign with two goals and three assists.

Nonetheless, Lee still only has six caps to his name and is yet to fully gain the trust of Taegeuk Warriors coach Paulo Bento, whose preference for a defensively-stable setup along with several other attacking options at his disposal means that plenty of competition for limited places for the Mallorca starlet.

Perhaps most telling was the fact that Lee did not play a single minute in South Korea's two friendlies against Costa Rica and Cameroon, while others such as Lee Jae-Sung, Hwang Hee-Chan and Jeong Woo-Yeong were all given a chance to impress.

Still, Lee is widely regarded as a generational prodigy and the fact that he is performing well at club level could prove impossible for Bento to ignore for much longer.