Vietnam's midfielder Quang Hai listed among best players in U23 Asian Cup history

By VNA   April 15, 2024 | 09:59 pm PT
Vietnam's midfielder Quang Hai listed among best players in U23 Asian Cup history
Nguyen Quang Hai reacts after scoring Vietnam's only goal against Malaysia at a World Cup qualification match, Oct. 10, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
As the biennial U23 Asian Cup officially kicked off, the continental football governing body has spotlighted Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai in the top 10 players who showcased their talent at previous editions.

"Many of those who have stood out for their countries over the years have gone on to become key performers for their senior national teams and represent some of the biggest clubs in Asia and beyond," said the AFC report.

Midfielder Hai was one of the most successful players in Vietnam's squad at the 2018 tournament in Changzhou, China, where Vietnam made their best ever result at a continental competition, finishing at second place.

"It’s not often a goal gets a name of its own but Vietnam's youngster Nguyen Quang Hai’s magnificent free kick against Uzbekistan in the 2018 final has that honor after coming to be known as the ‘Rainbow in the Snow’. Even though the Southeast Asians narrowly missed out on the title, the tournament showcased Hai's talent to the world," the website reads.

"Hai notched up five goals in Vietnam’s historic run to the final, including a brace against the United Arab Emirates in a thrilling semi-final, and went on to be named the MVP when Park Hang-seo’s side overcame Malaysia to win the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Cup in 2018. He also played an instrumental role when the Golden Star Warriors made it to the final eight of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup."

Nguyen Quang Hai scores for Vietnam against Uzbekistan in the AFC U23 Championship final under heavy blizzard in Changzhou, China, January 2018.

Not only shining internationally, Hai was also key member of Hanoi FC, helping the club to win national premier league titles in 2018, 2019 and 2022, the National Cup in 2019, 2020, 2022 and the Super Cup in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022, although in the 2022 season he played only half time before moving to Pau FC in the French Ligue 2.

Returning to Vietnam last year, he signed a contract with defending champions Hanoi Police. After a short time struggling to find his form, Hai is now the best local scorer with six goals in V-League 1 after 15 rounds.

Other players honored by the AFC include forward Takuma Asano of Japan, right winger Suphanat Mueanta of Thailand, striker Firas Al-Buraikan of Saudi Arabia, midfielder Lee Kang-in of South Korea and left winger Akram Afif of Qatar.

At this year's cup, Vietnam will play in Group D with Kuwait, Uzbekistan and Malaysia.

The AFC took an in-depth look at the teams and predicted Vietnam to have opportunity to enter the next round.

"Led by the impressive Nguyen Quang Hai, Vietnam went close to becoming the first Southeast Asian team to win the competition when they reached the final in 2018, only to be outdone by Uzbekistan in extra time," it posted.

"Vietnam qualified for the Finals after topping Group C with seven points. Initial wins against Guam (6-0) and Yemen (1-0) meant that the Golden Star Warriors secured their passage with a game to spare, before a much-changed side drew 2-2 with Singapore in their final match.

"With seven national team players including Nguyen Thai Son and Khuat Van Khang in the squad, Vietnam will be stronger contenders for a spot in the knockout stage."

The Vietnamese team are not given any mission at this tournament. However, coach Hoang Anh Tuan set it himself.

"Actually, the Vietnam Football Federation and I personally always have goals before each tournament. However, in this difficult time, VFF does not place heavy responsibility on us, asking us to play as best as possible," said Tuan.

"VFF does not set goal, but we want to set it ourselves. We will play with highest determination and great effort to at least get through the group stage.

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