Vietnam’s national football offense could strike a surprise

By Hoang Nguyen   May 24, 2019 | 12:56 am PT
Vietnam’s national football offense could strike a surprise
Nguyen Van Toan celebrates after scoring the winning goal in Asian Games quarterfinal match between Vietnam and Syria, August 27, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
Nguyen Van Toan was a substitute striker for the national team, but his recent form could propel him to the forefront.

Vietnam will play Thailand in a highly anticipated game in King’s Cup 2019 next month, but one of several headaches confronting coach Park Hang-seo is the centre-forward position.

Given the shining performance of Toan in V. League 1 this year, he can be Park's choice to solve the striker math on the national team.

Toan is currently the best Vietnamese striker in the league with five goals and four assists that have helped his club Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC to sixth position out of 14 clubs on the table.

He has been praised for his speed, off-ball movement, positioning and finishing. He has also improved his dribbling skills significantly.

He stunned everyone with two speedy goals in a V. League 1 match between Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC and Quang Ninh FC last month. It took Toan just four seconds to run 35 meters to score the first goal, which means his average speed then was 31.5 kph.

The second goal was even more impressive, with Toan running 49.3 meters in just five seconds, reaching an average speed of 35.49 kph. According to World Football statistics, the max speed of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is 33.6 kph.

Given Toan's speed and techniques, Park can at least solve one of several problems that he is facing with the national team, including the underwhelming form of many key players in the goalkeeper and centre-back positions.

Toan, 23, has played for Vietnam at many levels, U19, U23 and the national team, but he has mainly been a substitute.

Things might change at the King’s Cup, as he is the most reliable striker Park has at the moment.

Nguyen Anh Duc, the main striker in the AFF Cup 2018 campaign where Vietnam finished on top, announced his retirement from international football after the tournament, leaving a gap that has not been filled yet.

Park tried new strikers like Ha Duc Chinh and Nguyen Tien Linh at Asian Cup 2019, but benched them soon as they fell short of his expectations. Both are nursing injuries now, leaving their ability to play in the King’s Cup uncertain.

Nguyen Cong Phuong, a top offensive player for the country at the Asian Cup 2019, is still trying to get his form back. He has not made much of an impression since joining South Korea’s Incheon United earlier this year.

Another name for the center-forward position is Phan Van Duc but he is undergoing treatment for an injury. Although midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai can play as a striker, it would be a waste not putting him in the midfield.

Park even went to Europe to check out Vietnam-Norwegian striker Alexander Dang, but the 29-year-old striker failed to impress the coach.

King’s Cup 2019 is two weeks ahead. All four matches will be played in the northeastern province of Buriram in Thailand.

Vietnam will face hosts Thailand on June 5 while India face Curaçao the same day. The winners of these matches will meet in the final on June 8, while the two eliminated teams will play a third place playoff match.

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