Midfielder expected to make Vietnam national squad after injury layoff

By Nguyen My   May 20, 2019 | 07:51 pm PT
Midfielder expected to make Vietnam national squad after injury layoff
Midfielder Nguyen Tuan Anh, 23, has come back after missing major tournaments the past two years. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
With coach Park Hang-seo set to announce Vietnam’s King’s Cup squad, fans are hoping midfielder Nguyen Tuan Anh will make it.

After a year out of action due to injury, Anh is fit to play and eager to don the Vietnamese jersey again.

Anh was one of the most exciting up-and-coming young prospects, alongside well-known names like midfielder Luong Xuan Truong and striker Nguyen Cong Phuong, to graduate from Hoang Anh Gia Lai Arsenal JMG Academy in 2013. Truong is playing for Thailand's Buriram United on loan term and Phuong for South Korea's Incheon United.

The native of the northern Thai Binh Province soon became a sensation with the Vietnam U-19 team, showing remarkable skills.

Like his idol, AC Milan and Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo, Anh played with great flair. 

Unfortunately, a susceptibility to injuries has forced him to spend much of his career on the sidelines. At the end of 2017, he was a part of Vietnam U-23 squad for the AFC U-23 Championship. However, an injury sustained earlier hindered him from traveling to China with his teammates, who made history in finishing second in the tournament.

2018 continued to get worse for him when he limped off a V. League 1 match against Hai Phong on March 17. The foot injury eventually cost him one V. League season, ASIAD, AFF Suzuki Cup and the AFC Asian Cup earlier this year.

Spending a year recovering in South Korea was frustrating, but the support from the fans and his teammates was motivating, Anh has said.

During that time, he was also visited by coach Park Hang-seo on one of his trips back home, saying he had watched many of Anh’s tapes and wished the midfielder a speedy recovery.

The visit and encouragement inspired Anh to train and prepare for a comeback.

The anticipated return happened in Hoang Anh Gia Lai’s opening V. League 1 match against Sanna Khanh Hoa on February 23. Anh was given the captain’s armband, and he justified the trust reposed in him by leading his team to a 4 - 1 victory. He was drafted in as a central midfielder, and his ability to control the ball in the tiniest of spaces, as well as collecting and distributing it, was a highlight of the match. 

When asked about the possibility of wearing the Vietnamese cap at the upcoming King’s Cup in Thailand and the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Anh remained humble: "For now, I just want to be on the pitch, play and devote myself to Hoang Anh Gia Lai. Playing football brings me great joy."

His fans, however, are confident about a well-deserved call-up this time. Vietnam are set to take on Thailand in the opening match of King’s Cup on June 5 while India will play Curacao. Fans are hoping that the 23-year-old will return to form and work his midfield magic for the national team again.

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