Tuesday, 14/09/2021 14:22

The Local Game: What we learned from Việt Nam’s two defeats

Nguyễn Hoàng Đức has shown that he can mix it with the best Asia has to offer. Photo

Peter Cowan

“The greatest teacher, failure is,” a wise man once said.

Okay, Yoda wasn’t so much a wise man as a wise fictional alien, but the vertically challenged green Jedi did have a point.

The Việt Nam national team failed to take anything from their first two matches in the third round of World Cup qualification, and while calling the two performances failures would be awfully harsh, we did learn an awful lot about the team.

The V.League 1 matters

When the 2021 V.League 1 season was scrapped for good in July I said it might end up benefitting coach Park Hang-seo as it gave him the chance to keep his players in an extended training camp.

However, it seems I underestimated how important playing competitive football actually is for professional footballers. Who’d have thought it?

By the end of the Australia match it was clear that the Vietnamese players were struggling physically and I think it’s obvious that not having kicked a ball in anger for months played a role.

There’s no substitute for playing competitive matches where the result matters, and playing the U22 team just isn’t going to cut it.

The powers that be agree seemingly as there have been reports Việt Nam will try to arrange an international friendly ahead of October’s next two qualifiers, which is better than nothing, but still pales in comparison to the value of regular club football.

 Đức is the real deal

I could take a bit of a victory lap here as I said a while ago Nguyễn Hoàng Đức was going to be a star but really, it didn’t take a genius to figure that out, you just had to watch him for a match or two.

He was immense against both Saudi Arabia and Australia and cemented his place as Việt Nam’s best midfielder outside of Nguyễn Quang Hải in my book.

Đức can pass, create, dribble and is surprisingly strong. He proved against both Saudi Arabia and Australia that he can more than hold his own at a more physically demanding level of football than the V.League 1.

No wonder then that apparently three South Korean clubs and one Thai team are interested in signing him, but they may face an uphill battle to secure his signature. has reported that Đức’s youth contract at Viettel runs until 2024, which would make him 26 when it expires, not exactly youthful in a footballing sense.

Here’s hoping he gets the chance to make a move abroad and an exorbitant price tag doesn’t hinder his development, as has happened to other national team stars.

VN belong at this level

Despite losing twice, Việt Nam never looked outclassed.

They led for a majority of the match against Saudi Arabia and could have taken all three points without the red card, though I do think they would have eventually conceded considering the pressure the Saudis were exerting.

The Australia match was also competitive and Việt Nam certainly had a couple of opportunities to snatch a point, despite pre-match fears the Socceroos would lay down a thumping.

So while zero points from two matches doesn’t look good on paper, there’s plenty of cause for optimism, as this Vietnamese team clearly belongs at this level of football. VNS

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