Vietnam's star striker finding his feet again after forgettable 2019

By Hoang Nguyen, Lam ThoaFebruary 28, 2020 | 08:30 pm PT
Vietnam's star striker finding his feet again after forgettable 2019
Nguyen Cong Phuong celebrates after scoring the opener for HCMC FC in an AFC Cup game against Hougang United, February 25, 2020. Photo courtesy of Ho Chi Minh City FC.
Nguyen Cong Phuong has returned from Belgium and aims to win four titles with his new club, HCMC FC, this season.

He has rejoined HCMC after being on loan and sitting on the bench most of the time in Europe, making a solitary appearance for Sint-Truidense in the Belgian league.

"I was disappointed a bit because I didn't get to play much in Europe," he said after HCMC's 3-2 win against Singaporean club Hougang United on February 25.

Last year was a tough one for Phuong after two unsuccessful loan spells overseas. He went to South Korea to play for Incheon United, a team in the topflight K League 1, but was benched quite often, only getting to play 352 minutes in all during his four months there.

He asked Incheon to end his contract to join Sint-Trudense. But in Belgium he even got less playing time.

In December, HCMC FC bought out the remaining six months of his loan deal with the club.

Back in Vietnam, where he is one of the greatest strikers ever, he scored the first goal for HCMC in their 2-2 draw with Myanmar side Yangon United in the AFC Cup.

In their second match against Hougang United, Phuong opened the scoring and helped the team win and go to the top of group F.

This year HCMC are also set to play in the AFF Club Championship, V. League 1 and National Cup.

"My goal is to win them all with the club," Phuong said.

His first goal on February 11 was his first in over a year.

"I was very happy after that goal because that is a great way to come back after not scoring for a long time in South Korea and Belgium."

Cong Phuong scores in HCMC FC's AFC Cup match against Yangon United, February 11, 2020.

Phuong might have fallen short of expectations at the club level, but has contributed greatly to the national and U23 teams’ successes.

He helped the latter finish runners-up at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship and the senior team win the AFF Cup the same year.

At the 2019 Asian Cup, where Vietnam reached the quarterfinals, he scored twice.

"My experience in football environments like Japan, South Korea and Belgium is very valuable. I have learned a lot during these times."

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