Vietnamese forward starts as Japaneses club win league cup match

By Hieu Luong   April 24, 2024 | 07:57 pm PT
Vietnamese forward starts as Japaneses club win league cup match
Nguyen Cong Phuong (C) warms up with Yokohama FC teammates before the J. League Cup match against Fagiano Okayama on April 24, 2024. Photo by Yokohama FC
Forward Nguyen Cong Phuong did not make much of an impression before getting subbed in the second half when Yokohama FC won on penalties against Fagiano Okayama in J. League Cup.

Phuong, in his first start for Yokohama on Wednesday, played as an attacking midfielder, along with Mizuki Arai and Salomon Sakuragawa to form an attacking trio.

His biggest impression came in the second minute when he had a chance to finish from the left flank but was blocked by Fagiano Okayama's goalkeeper. He also took five corners, including an accurate cross in the 52nd minute, but Salomon Sakuragawa did not have enough power on his touch and the keeper easily caught it.

In the 20th minute, Phuong received a yellow card after a dangerous foul. He left the pitch in the 68th minute for Brazilian midfielder Caprini. This is the first start of the 29-year-old forward since joining the Yokohama in early 2023. The match also marked the second time Phuong played in an official match for Yokohama, after 386 days, since the 2-3 loss to Nagoya Grampus on April 5, 2023, also in the J. League Cup. In that match, Phuong only entered the game when there was two minutes left on the clock.

In the Wednesday match, host Okayama opened the scoring in the 15th minute thanks to Yudai Tanaka. In the 42nd minute, Hinata Ogura equalized 1-1 with a beautiful long-range shot from about 25 m, before Sakuragawa put Yokohama ahead in the 55th minute. Five minutes later, Takaya Kimura equalized 2-2, bringing the game into extra time.

Tanaka continued to shine for Okayama with a goal in the 93rd minute, but Caprini, who replaced Phuong in the second half, equalized for Yokohama in the 107th minute. In the penalty shootout, Yokohama successfully scored all five. Meanwhile, Okayama missed the third penalty with Yuji Wakasa's shot blocked by goalkeeper Kengo Nagai. In the end, Yokohama won 5-3 on penalties to enter the third round of the J. League Cup against Nagoya Grampus on May 22.

According to Yokohama head coach Shuhei Yomoda, the J. League Cup is an opportunity for players who have had little chance to compete in recent times. Thus he put Phuong in the starting lineup.

"I hope they take advantage of the opportunity to become part of the team," he told newspaper Tagrma before the match. "We want to develop young players while raising the level of reserve players."

Previously, Yomoda had a private discussion with Phuong at the training session on April 18. He asked the forward to follow the instructions correctly. In response, Phuong affirmed that if he could play, he would try his best.

Phuong's preferred playing position is winger striker or attacking midfielder. But he also can play as a central midfielder. Yomoda even asked Phuong to play as a defensive midfielder or box-to-box midfielder sometimes.

Nguyen Cong Phuong's performance in his first start for Yokohama FC, April 24, 2024.

In the 2024 season, Yokohama compete in J2 League after getting relegated in the 2023 J1 League.

Yokohama aim to return to J1 League next season. Currently, the team are fourth in J2 League with 18 points, six behind second place V-Varen Nagasaki. According to the rules, the champion and runner-up of J2 League 2 will be promoted directly. The third to sixth place will enter the playoffs for the remaining slot.

Phuong is in his second season at Yokohama but has not been able to break into the main team. His contract with the club lasts until the end of the 2026 season.

He is the second Vietnamese footballer playing abroad at the moment, besides Huynh Nhu of Lank FC in the Portuguese national women's football championship.

The 29-year-old forward had played for foreign teams such as Mito Hollyhock (Japan) in 2016, Incheon United (South Korea) in 2019 and Saint Truiden (Belgium) in the 2019-2020 season, but he failed to leave an impression in any of them.

go to top