SEA Games age limit raised, Vietnam football stars get another chance

By Lam Thoa   March 19, 2019 | 07:40 pm PT
SEA Games age limit raised, Vietnam football stars get another chance
Nguyen Cong Phuong (front) reacts after scoring against Malaysia at AFF Cup in December 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
Vietnam can use more experienced footballers at SEA Games 2019 with host Philippines deciding teams can have two players above 22.

This is good news for Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo as he targets winning gold in the tournament. He can now bank on adding more experience and talent to the team.

Countries participating in the 30th Southeast Asian Games had agreed that the men’s football tournament will be played with U22 teams.

However, as the host of the latest SEA Games edition to be held later this year, the Philippines has announced that all participating teams can add two more players who are above 22 years old.

The Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) has confirmed the announcement and said that Park will have full discretion to select the additional players.

In the current U22 team, there are seven players who have already participated in several international tournaments in 2018, helping the national team win the silver medal at AFC U-23 Championship in January, making it to the semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games in August, and winning the 2018 AFF Championship in December. Among them are star midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai, 21, who was named best player at the AFF Cup and also voted as one that scored the best goal at Asian Cup last January.

The rest of the players in Vietnam’s U22 team lack experience. They put in an unimpressive performance to finish third at the U22 AFF Championship last month.

With the latest decision from the Philippines, coach Park will be able to use players from his more grown-up pool, including key players like Nguyen Cong Phuong, Luong Xuan Truong, both 24, and Dang Van Lam, 26, all now playing for foreign clubs.

Striker Phuong is playing for Incheon United in K-League 1, midfielder Truong for Thailand's Buriram United and Lam is the main goalkeeper of Muangthong United, a club in Thai League 1.

SEA Games is the largest sport event in the Southeast Asia. This year, it will be held from November 30 to December 10, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. In the previous tournament in 2017, Vietnam’s U23 team underperformed and was eliminated right at the group stage. However, Vietnamese football has scored big successes since, giving millions of Vietnamese fans hope that the country will finally win the gold medal after 50 years.

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