Vietnam goalkeeper beats tough odds in national team return

By Nguyen My, Lam Thoa   May 30, 2019 | 05:07 pm GMT+7
Vietnam goalkeeper beats tough odds in national team return
Goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh is coming back to the national team after receiving a red card for foul three years ago. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Coach Park’s 23-man squad for the upcoming King’s Cup has brought Tran Nguyen Manh back after three difficult years.

Manh used to be the first keeper for the national team under managers Toshiya Miura and Nguyen Huu Thang. He was highly regarded for his quick reflexes as a custodian. However, Manh was also prone to making mistakes, and his inability to keep a cool head almost cost him his international career.

The second leg semifinal of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup against Indonesia is probably one of the worst days in Manh’s international career. He lost his temper in a collision with an Indonesian player in the 75th minute, and was immediately shown a red card by the referee. Central defender Que Ngoc Hai had to stand in for him, and Vietnam eventually lost 4 - 3 on aggregate.

After the heartbreaking loss, many lost faith in the national team and Nguyen Manh in particular. It was said that Manh had donned the Vietnamese jersey for the last time.

He was further relegated in memory as Vietnamese football witnessed some truly remarkable improvements over the next two years. The national team exceeded expectations in Asian competitions, shooting goalkeepers like Bui Tien Dung and Dang Van Lam to the limelight.

It did not get any easier for the 28-year-old, as his career suffered another major setback in 2018. The keeper broke his wrist when Song Lam Nghe An played Tampines Rovers in the 2018 AFC Cup, and speculation rose that he might face early retirement from the game.

Despite the highly discouraging situation, Manh did not quit. He spent the majority of the 2018 season recovering, training and getting ready for his return.

Manh’s performance for Song Lam Nghe An this V. League 1 season has been impressive. He only conceded seven goals in 11 games, the best by any goalkeeper. He caught the eye of national team coach Park Hang-seo, who is known for valuing form over prestige.

The news of his selection was unexpected, though Manh told VnExpress: "One of my teammates said I might get a call up this time, but nothing was certain. On the evening of May 27, after a training session with Song Lam Nghe An, I got the official news. I am so happy that I want to scream. It is like a dream come true.

"I made mistakes and I had to pay for it. I know I had to do my best at Song Lam Nghe An to earn myself another chance. But things have not always turned out the way I wanted. There were times I thought I would never get the call-up again as Vietnam has many good keepers with impressive records. But my hard work has paid off. Park Hang-seo has been fair, he saw how hard I worked so he gave me this opportunity. I am looking forward to working with him."

Vietnam will play hosts Thailand on June 5 in the opening match of the 2019 King’s Cup. Although Manh is unlikely to find himself in the final 11 since Dang Van Lam is still Vietnam’s first goalkeeper, he can be proud of returning it to the national team after facing a lot of adversity.

 
 
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