Vietnam star footballers big fish in small pond: ESPN

By Hoang Nguyen   December 28, 2021 | 04:30 am PT
Vietnam star footballers big fish in small pond: ESPN
Nguyen Quang Hai takes a shot in the first leg of the AFF Cup semifinal between Vietnam and Thailand on December 23, 2021. Photo by Leo Shengwei
On sports site ESPN, expert Gabriel Tan said Vietnam had some big stars at the AFF Cup and it's time they are given the opportunities to spread their wings.

"It has to be acknowledged that - barring the obvious disappointment of failing to retain the title - Vietnam's campaign has been far from disastrous," Tan wrote.

Vietnam kept a clean sheet through four games of the group stage and their only loss came from the first leg of the semifinals against Thailand.

"The talent at their disposal is undeniable but the relinquishing of their crown only further highlights a problem that has been plaguing Vietnamese football - the need for their brightest prospects to take the next step in their careers," he added.

Tan mentioned the brightest stars on the national team: Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Hoang Duc and Nguyen Tien Linh and said they still "ply their trade domestically" and "run the risk of being too comfortable as big fish in a small pond."

"The issue may not exactly lie with their ambition (or lack thereof), given there is an unspoken consensus among the country's footballing fraternity that players are being tied down by their clubs, who view them as valuable commodities both on and off the field."

Tan said these clubs should "see the bigger picture" and allow the players to "spread their wings for the greater good."

He mentioned Thailand captain Chanathip Songkrasin as an example of how playing overseas can help a player with their development.

Songkrasin has spent the last four and a half years in Japan's top flight championship J1 League with his club Consadole Sapporo and became one of the best players in Southeast Asia.

In the first leg of the semifinals against Vietnam last Thursday, he put on an excellent performance and scored a double that helped Thailand advance.

Tan also discussed the need to change the head coach position of the team, saying this might be the right time to part ways with Park Hang-seo.

"There is also the question of whether Vietnam have gone as far as they can under coach Park Hang-seo, although he has plenty of credit in the bank for all they have achieved under him since he took over in 2017.

"If Park and Vietnam have really achieved all they can together, now could be a good time for them to go their separate ways. Even if they still have the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers to complete, that appears to be little more than a pride-salvaging mission," he said.

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