AFC Cup 2020: Vietnamese striker among players to keep an eye on

By Hoang Nguyen   February 11, 2020 | 12:10 am PT
Nguyen Cong Phuong of HCMC FC is one of the noteworthy players competing at the AFC Cup 2020, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) says.
Nguyen Cong Phuong (L) in training before playing his first game in AFC Cup. Photo courtesy of HCMC FC.

Nguyen Cong Phuong (L) in training before playing his first game in AFC Cup. Photo courtesy of HCMC FC.

This will be the first time that Phuong’s participating in the annual continental club football tournament organized by the AFC.

In singling him out as a player to watch out for, AFC highlighted Phuong’s contribution to the national football team at two major competitions in 2018 and 2019.

"Part of the side that finished runners-up at the AFC U23 Championship China 2018, Cong Phuong went on to score in both Vietnam’s triumphant 2018 AFF Cup campaign and their quarter-final showing at the Asian Cup 2019."

The confederation also pointed out Phuong’s key strengths that will come to play for HCMC FC in the upcoming tournament.

"While pace is one of his key weapons, Cong Phuong is also excellent with the ball at his feet and bringing others into play, and his acquisition undoubtedly makes Ho Chi Minh City a stronger outfit ahead of their first foray into the AFC Cup," AFC wrote.

Other players on the watch-out-for list are: IIija Spasojevic of Bali United, Indonesia, Than Paing of Yangon United, Myanmar, Stephan Schrock of Ceres Negros, Philippines, Befolo Mbarga of Preah Khan Reach Rieng FC, Campuchia, and Stipe Plazibat of Hougang United, Singapore.

Phuong, 25, joined HCMC FC in January from Belgian top-flight club Sint-Truidense V.V. with the club acquiring the remaining half of a one-year loan deal signed in July last year between Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC and Sint-Truidense.

Phuong’s return to HCMC FC is expected to boost the club's offense at the AFC Cup, the V. League 1 and Vietnamese National Cup.

The AFC Cup ASEAN zone group stage, with the participation of 12 clubs in the region, starts February 11.

HCMC FC will play Yangon United in Myanmar at 4 p.m. Tuesday (Hanoi time).

They joined AFC Cup after suffering a 1-2 to loss to Buriram United in their debut match at AFC Champions League competition in Thailand last month.

HCMC, runners-up of the 2019 V-League tournament, earned the slot after Hanoi FC, the V-League winners, failed to qualify for not having an under-15 young team. Last year, Hanoi FC made it to the inter-zonal final of the AFC Cup and only lost on away goals to North Korean club April 25 SC.

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