Year of the Ox football stars focus on plowing ahead

By Tuan Hoang   February 18, 2021 | 03:00 pm GMT+7
Five members of the Vietnamese men’s football team plan to work hard to maintain or regain form in the year of their zodiac animal, the Ox.

Nguyen Quang Hai (April 12, 1997)

Nguyen Quang Hai dribbles past Thai players during the SEA Games match between Vietnam and Thailand on November 19, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

Nguyen Quang Hai dribbles past Thai players during the SEA Games match between Vietnam and Thailand on November 19, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

Hai is without doubt one of the most important players in the national team under South Korean manager Park Hang-seo. He is also regarded as one of the best Vietnamese footballers of his generation. The 23-year-old midfielder’s trophy cabinet includes three V. League titles, one Super Cup and one National Cup that he won with Hanoi FC.

In 2018, he helped U23 Vietnam finish second at the AFC U23 Championship by scoring important goals. A few months later, Hai won the AFF Cup with the national team and in 2019, the SEA Games gold medal with the U22 team.

It is a widespread belief that the year of a person’s zodiac animal, which comes around once every 12 years, can be challenging for that person. But Hai said he didn’t mind the challenges that he will face this year.

"Many people say your zodiac year will be unlucky, but I think I also had some bad luck in 2020. The important thing is how you accept them. I have been through a lot so nothing can knock me down. I will welcome everything with peace and positivity."

Tran Dinh Trong (April 25, 1997)

Tran Dinh Trong (in red) controls the ball during the AFC U23 Championship game between Vietnam and UAE on January 23, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa.

Tran Dinh Trong (in red) controls the ball during the AFC U23 Championship game between Vietnam and UAE on January 23, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa.

Another bright prospect for Vietnamese football, Trong, has the maturity and resilience of a veteran defender at his young age. His star shone brightly in 2018 as he won the V. League and Super Cup with Hanoi FC; and became one of the key defenders in Vietnam’s AFF Cup victory.

However, after Asian Cup 2019, where Vietnam finished in the top eight, Trong has been struggling with knee injuries. The center-back has undergone three surgeries in two years and hasn’t been on top of his form. But whenever he is healthy, Trong is a top defense choice for coach Park.

Fans are hoping that Trong can return to form and be ready to serve the national team this year.

Ho Tan Tai (November 6, 1997)

Ho Tan Tai takes a shot during an exhibition game between Vietnam and Myanmar on June 7, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Nam Anh.

Ho Tan Tai takes a shot during an exhibition game between Vietnam and Myanmar on June 7, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Nam Anh.

Tai is a valuable right-back for the national team. With his ability to strike a good balance between offense and defense and score goals, he has the potential to become the number one right-back for Vietnam.

Tai has proved himself in the Becamex Binh Duong shirt from 2017 to 2020. In 2021, he joined the newly-promoted side Topenland Binh Dinh and has continued his good form at the new club. Coach Park has called Tai up to the national team several times and he is expected to represent Vietnam in upcoming tournaments this year.

Nguyen Tien Linh (October 30, 1997)

Nguyen Tien Linh celebrates after scoring in the World Cup Asian qualification game on November 14, 2019.

Nguyen Tien Linh celebrates after scoring in the World Cup Asian qualification game on November 14, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong.

A key striker for both Becamex Binh Duong and the national team, Linh is known for his positioning and finishing skills. Vietnamese fans still remember the stunner that he pulled off in the World Cup Asian qualification game against UAE in 2019, which helped Vietnam win 1-0 and sent them to the top of the group.

Linh’s other achievements include winning the AFF Cup 2018 with the national team and a SEA Games gold medal with the U22 team in 2019.

"Of course I acknowledge that it’s my zodiac year. However, it doesn’t affect me too much because keeping your mind comfortable is most important. There may be many big tournaments this year, so maintaining my form and physique will be a challenge. As a professional player, I will focus on this rather than worry about bad luck."

Bui Tien Dung (February 28, 1997)

Bui Tien Dung during a training with the U23 Vietnam on March 7, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa.

Bui Tien Dung during a training with the U23 Vietnam on March 7, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa.

Once the number one goalkeeper in the national team, Dung’s form has slipped in recent years, displaying inconsistency and making mistakes. He has lost his position to Dang Van Lam in the national team. He has been rarely fielded even at the club level and has not made much of an impression in the few chances he has had to play.

The HCMC FC player will have to compete with three other keepers in the club this year, but he is not giving up. He said he would do his best and fight for his position.

 
 
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