AFF Suzuki Cup 2018: In Focus â" Vietnam
Following the strides they have taken recently at Under-23 level, FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan investigates if Vietnam can succeed at AFF Suzuki Cup 2018.
It was back in January when Vietnam really made all of Asia sit up and take not with their impressive run to the final of the AFC U-23 Championship, which was followed up late this year when they finished fourth at the Asian Games 2018.
There is no denying that the Vietnamese currently boast a âgolden generationâ, with the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai, Luong Xuan Truong and Nguyen Cong Phuong all among the brightest prospects in Southeast Asia, as well as the entire continent.
But can Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo translate their U-23 success to the senior stage at the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup?
FOX Sports Asia delves deeper into their prospects at the upcoming regional tournament .
November 8: Laos v Vietnam (New Laos National Stadium, Vientiane)
November 16: Vietnam v Malaysia (My Dinh National Stadium, Hanoi)
November 20: Myanmar v Vietnam (Thuwunna Stadium, Yangon)
November 24: Vietnam v Cambodia (Hang Day Stadium, Hanoi)
Although Vietnam only have one Suzuki Cup title compared to record winners Thailandâs six, they actually match the War Elephants in semi-final appearances having progressed out of the group stage in nine out of 11 editions of the tournament.
Their finest hour came in 2008 when â" led by stars such as striker Le Cong Vinh and goalkeeper Duong Hong Son â" they beat Malaysia and Laos in the group stage to reach the last four, before seeing off Singapore and then beating Thailand in the final.
Since then, barring a minor blip in 2012, the Vietnamese have never failed to reach the semis but are still waiting for thei r first final appearance since a decade ago.
ONE GAME NOT TO MISS
Given their geographical proximity, and as two of the heavyweights in Group A, Vietnamâs trip to Myanmar on November 20 is looming as a must-watch.
In their head-to-head record, Vietnam leads with three wins to Myanmarâs one, with the last of those going at the previous Suzuki Cup when the Vietnamese claimed a 2-1 triumph in the group stage.
And, with young stars like Quang Hai and Aung Thu promising to light up the stage, the meeting between these two Mekong countries could be one of the clashes of the tournament.
Nguyen Van Quyet â" As one of the elder statesmen in a young team, Van Quyet will be required to provide much-needed experience having been involved â" and scored at â" the past three Suzuki Cups. The 27-year-old remains a wily attacker capable of carving apart opposition defences and should play a pivotal role in the final third.
Nguyen Quang Hai â" It was interesting to see Quang Hai deployed as a traditional central midfielder at the Asian Games, given it has been as a wide attacker where he has made a name for himself in recent years. The Ha Noi star is likely to revert to his natural position at the Suzuki Cup, where he could prove to be a real nightmare for any full-back that has the unenviable task of trying to stop him.
Luong Xuan Truong â" Amidst all the attacking firepower Vietnam possess, Xuan Truong provides a calming influence sitting deep in midfield. Once heralded for big things, Xuan Truong may not have developed as quickly as many expected after a spell in Korea Republic with Gangwon FC, but he remains a smooth operator that will be central to anything good Vietnam do.
With a talent-laden squad at Parkâs disposal, and having shown an aptitude for tournament football â " albeit at Under-23 level â" this year, Vietnam have to be regarded as genuine contenders.
Question marks might still remain over their ability to deliver when it really matters, especially when they were also tipped to go far in 2016 but fell in the semi-finals.
However, there is genuine belief that Vietnam will not disappoint this time and, despite also having to worry about next Januaryâs AFC Asian Cup 2019, they could take some stopping as they gun for only their second-ever Suzuki Cup crown.
Photo credit: Asian Games 2018Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam